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Prisoner Rights: You Can't Vote, But What Can You Do In Prison?

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The debate over whether or not prisoners should get the vote has hit the headlines, amid a political row over the topic.

While David Cameron has said no prisoner will get votes under his government, an EU mandate has decreed that prisoners, in some capacity, should be allowed to vote in all its member states. The ruling stems from Italian murderer Franco Scoppola, who has launched a bid to get the vote, claiming removing it was a human rights violation.

At the moment, a number of non-European countries permit serving prisoners to vote. Australia, which practises a system of compulsory voting, Canada, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Peru and Zimbabwe all allow inmates to vote in elections.

But what other rights do prisoners in the UK currently have?

uk prisons

The IEPS exists to create a system for rewarding and punishing prisoners

Beyond the full range of human rights prisoners are obviously entitled to, is the Incentive and Earned Privilege Scheme (IEPS), which is used to create a dynamic of rewards and punishment for convicted prisoners.

The Prisoners Advice Service says the system is designed to: "encourage responsible behaviour by prisoners; to encourage effort and achievement in work and other constructive activity."

Perks such as increased visits, in-cell television and the right to wear your own clothes can come as rewards for good behaviour, while luxuries such as time out of cell and access to private cash can be reduced as punishment for bad behaviour.

Prisoners work up to 10 hours a day while incarcerated which allows them to earn money for their personal cash allowance. This can be deducted or stopped for a maximum of 42 days if a prisoner commits a behavioural offence in prison.

uk prisons

The system is designed to encourage prisoners' rehabilitation while incarcerated

The cash allowance can go towards purchasing books, magazines, newspapers and writing materials for the prisoners.

Outside of the IEPS, punishments include: forfeiture of facilities (for a maximum 42 days); stoppage of earnings (maximum 42 days); cellular confinement (maximum 14 days); or exclusion from work (maximum 21 days).

Interestingly, you can apply to start a family with a married partner from prison via artificial insemination, although this is only allowed in extreme cases. Mothers can keep their baby in prison until 18 months of age, after which most have to give up care of their child.

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Education is an important part of rehabilitation within prison. Prisoners still at compulsory education age get 15 hours a week, while night school courses and Open University courses are available to older prisoners.

As the infamous case of Iorworth Hoare, a prisoner serving a life sentence at Leyhill prison, showed, low security prisoners, such as those on day release, are allowed to participate in the lottery.

Hoare won £7m on the National Lottery in 2004, 15 years after being convicted of rape. Despite ministers' efforts, there are no rules to prevent Hoare spending the money when he exits prison.

Around the Web

Prisoners' rights - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prisoners' Rights - Legal Dictionary - The Free Dictionary

Prisoners' Rights Handbook 2009 - PAILP.org