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Mitchell’s research involves an area of law popularly referred to as felon disenfranchisement. That is, Mitchell looks at felon exclusion laws, which “that exclude ex-felons from being full citizens.” Often thought to mean one thing—the right of ex-felons to vote—felon disenfranchisement involves much more, including limits on the rights of ex-felons to serve on a jury, to have housing, to get educational loans and, in some jurisdictions, even to maintain parental rights.
One of the debates occurring within the scholarly community concerns whether there is a disproportionate impact of felon disenfranchisement laws, that is, how such laws affect some demographic groups more than others, especially African-American communities. If we consider, for instance, the disproportionate number of African-American men who are currently incarcerated or under the control of the criminal justice system at some point in time (about one-third of the African-American male community), it becomes clear that such laws do have a disparate impact on certain groups.
Mitchell teaches a broad range of courses, including a criminal justice administration course that he describes as “bail to jail”; a class about torts, which involve civil wrongs; and one called Law and Society, which examines the social context behind the law. The latter course clearly reflects Mitchell’s background in sociology, which has influenced both his pedagogy and his research. In Collateral Consequences of Sentencing, he covers felon disenfranchisement, felon exclusion laws, and prisoner reentry.