Baldwin-Wallace Jail Registration Project

Civic Engagement example of a class using Soul of a Citizen: Baldwin-Wallace students register 700 inmates in Ohio jails.

For information, contact Brain Leadership program director Dr Tiffany Hansbrough

Students at Cleveland's Baldwin-Wallace College's Brain Leadership Program have been reading Soul of a Citizen as a core resource for years. The book helped give them a framework to participate in Ohio Free the Vote, a 2004 project that sent escorted volunteers to register people in local jails who, because they were awaiting trial, were eligible to vote and gave them forms to request absentee ballots, that the Cuyahoga Board of Elections then sent workers in to deliver and collect. Baldwin Wallace students participating in a class of the Brain Leadership program registered over 700 people to vote in the 2004 Presidential election. Students made a concrete difference, compared their own experiences about civic participations to the analyses in the books they read for their courses, and saw their existing assumptions challenged about who should be allowed to participate in shaping a democratic society

Here's a powerful reflection by a Baldwin Wallace student who found her assumptions shaken to the core.

A student named Julie writes:
"Like many of my fellow classmates, I had never heard of the Ohio Free the Vote Coalition (OFTV). At first I didn't feel very supportive about the organization. I felt extremely put out that I had to volunteer two of my Saturday afternoons and go downtown to the Cuyahoga County Jailhouse to help register convicts.

But upon learning more about the cause, I was surprised to learn the people that were in the county jail weren't convicts at all. These people were either awaiting trial, or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor. As citizens, these people had the right to vote. Interestingly, the majority of the inmates along with correctional workers had no idea that incarcerated people had the right to vote. Instead of just educating all the parties concerned, the OFTV actually went the extra step and completed the cause by registering the prisoners. This act surprised many of them who were very grateful to feel as though they were still part of society.

It didn't become real to me until I went to the Cuyahoga County Jailhouse and started registering the inmates. After chatting with the inmates I was registering, I got the impression that some of them were first time voters. I'd say the average age was approximately 35 to 40 years old. Regardless of what their transgressions were, they had the right to vote and many of them seized the opportunity to voice their opinion through their vote.

I learned that by protecting these people's voting rights, we actually are protecting our own rights. By volunteering to help with voter registration, I feel I helped contribute to our democratic process. After all, they had not been convicted, but shame on us for treating them as though they had been, including me."

Share this page.