Should Prisoners Get The Vote?

06/01/2011 12:00 | Updated 22 May 2015

It's the typical election scene. The well groomed party leader talks about his hopes and dreams for the country's future against a background of smiling highschool students, pensioners - or prisoners? Politicians could soon find themselves with up to 70,000 new votes to campaign for as the country's convicted criminals get given ballot papers.

Murderers, rapists and paedophiles (along with the other 58% of the prison population who did not commit a crime involving violence against another person or a sexual offence) could all have a say in how our country is run after threatening the government with huge compensation claims. The claims hinge on a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) back in 2005 that said Britain was acting unlawfully by stopping inmates from voting. Until now, the government has not adhered to the ruling but David Cameron is said to be 'furious and exasperated' at having to concede or pay out millions of pounds in compensation.

Is this political correctness gone mad, or is it the human right of every person, regardless of the crime they have committed, to have their voice heard in a democratic society? According to John Hirst, who brought the case to the ECHR, prisoners are not being treated properly but there is no incentive for the government to do anything about it, because they can't vote. This is a fair point but John, who was convicted of manslaughter and served 24 years in prison, hasn't done his moral ambitions any favours by posting a video on Youtube in which he lights up a joint to celebrate the concession.

He is seen saying 'Murderers, rapists, paedophiles - all of them will get the vote, because it's their human right. You can't start moralising and say which ones can and can't have the vote.'

Really? Because I think you can. I think the whole issue is about moralising. What about the human rights of the person John killed? They will forever be denied. That person never stands the chance of having their vote again. This is another case of concentrating on the rights of the criminals, rather than their victims.

Ministers are looking at ways to keep enforcement of the 140 year old law in place for the worst offenders. Yet some reform groups think that the ruling is a positive move and believe that it is right that every prisoner gets the vote. They claim it is an important part of their rehabilitation. If prisoners are not encouraged to act as productive citizens then they cannot be reformed and in order to be reintegrated back into society, they need to be treated as part of it.

But why should they have a say in how our society is run? They forfeited that right when they failed to honour its rules. Voting is a civil democratic liberty that is extended to people who actively participate in, and contribute to the society they live in.

I believe in rehabilitation and that most prisoners should be given the chance to reform, but part of that reform is about paying the consequences for the crime you committed. Consequences that include giving up the rights and liberties afforded to law abiding citizens.

By: Emma Jayne Jones


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