The U.S. attorney general told us that statistics can be read to show that felon disenfranchisement laws actually promote recidivism. He said that such laws, which vary from state to state, are rooted in outdated notions going back to colonial days (when no one did any voting). He said that they were used during Reconstruction intentionally, and have been used since (whether intentionally or not is left hanging in the air) to deny the vote to blacks—who make up a larger percentage of those convicted of felonies than they do of the general population.
The statistical argument derives from a recent study in Florida that showed a lower recidivism rate for felons whose right to vote had been restored than for those whose right hadn’t. However, there is more going on here.