This morning’s news is that prisoners are to get the vote. It’s a long running case with the European Courts that started in 2005 and on which the government has finally relented. This is political, so perhaps the change in government to a more liberal one has contributed to this. Conversely, the Conservatives are not known for their positive attitude towards prisoners.
There’s a predictable backlash about people being punished and they should lose their liberty, to which I have one thing to add: Not everyone is in prison for punishment. Some people are on remand and have not been convicted with anything yet and although we sometimes may need to stop people absconding while things progress, they are not (yet) being punished and people that find themselves in this position are already allowed to vote.
However, there are people inside who are there just because it’s considered unsafe to release them, but have served the “punishment” portion of their sentence and at the moment they are deprived of the right to vote. At this point, I feel I should probably plug Ben’s Prison blog, by a serving prisoner who is in exactly this position. I’m sure we’ll see something from him on the topic soon, but it will be delayed somewhat – he has to post his blog posts to someone who actually has internet access, because there is no internet in prisons!
Fifty years ago, we were still locking up people for being gay. I’m sure there are some out there who would rather LGBT folk didn’t get the vote, but unsurprisingly I’m not one of them. Should we also deprive people of the vote for victimless crimes that only exist because they cause moral outrage amongst the masses? After all, they can’t vote to make these things legal because they are in prison and we took that away from them.
And finally, even if you grouped all the prisoners together, they would still not collectively be able to elect more than one MP. I hardly think we’re likely to see anyone overthrowing society just through one MP, but they still deserve some say in how they are treated. Look at yesterday’s case with Nina for an example of why this is important.
Sometimes, I think people want to deprive prisoners of the vote just because they don’t view them as human.