Prison convict trapped society

Prisoners Should Be Allowed To Vote. No Question.

The answer to preventing criminal re-offenses lies in ensuring that criminals serve their sentences, but never lose their perception that they are still citizens of a nation, and should act like one when they come out of prison.

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Prison convict trapped society

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A brawl is brewing between the European Court and the Coalition government in Britain. The former wants to implement a law which allows the prisoners to have a vote during elections, while David Cameron has defiantly said during Prime Minister’s Questions that the prisoners will never get the vote under his government.

It may perhaps seem like common sense that prisoners should lose their right to vote. After all, they have lost their right to freedom due to committing a crime which has in some way disadvantaged the society, thus they should have no say in the shaping of the society. Nevertheless such a judgment is not truly thought through properly. The purpose of putting criminals into prison is twofold: to protect the community and to hopefully punish the criminals so that they will not re-offend again once they are out. However, Britain has an appalling record of criminals who commit crimes repeatedly. 1 in 3 people who appear before a judge have committed on average 15 crimes before. It is obvious that the search for the holy grail of turning criminals into lawful citizens is still lost. I believe that one of the reasons for this is the fact that prisoners become completely alienated from society once in prison. One may argue that this is the whole point of imprisonment, however is it not essential, and more important to ensure that criminals do not re-offend. One way of preventing re-offenses is to ensure that prisoners do not feel segregated from the rest of the country. Unfortunately, preventing prisoners from voting is doing just that. By taking away the prisoner’s freedom to play a role in who governs the country, society is sending a message to prisoners that he or she is no longer part of that society. This undoubtedly will lead to the feeling of isolation and, in due course, re-offending. After all, following the convict’s freedom from prison, why should he or she feel the need to abide by the law when he or she feels psychologically distanced from the society which made these laws?

If the British government wants to see the figures for re-offending diminished, then the country as a whole should not treat prisoners like sub-class citizens or animals, but instead treat them as citizens who deserve to serve their punishment, but still have a vital role in shaping society. If Britain allows prisoners to vote, it will at least psychologically ensure that the prisoner feels welcomed and senses some compassion which hopefully will ensure he will not re-offend again once the freedom is given back to him.

The debate on whether criminals should be punished or rehabilitated has been discussed for many years now. I believe the real answer does not lie in whether the government disciplines them harshly or treats them as “sick” people who just need to be cured with care just like one is cured from a common cold. The answer lies in ensuring the criminals serve their sentence but never lose their perception that they are still citizens of a nation, and should act like one when they come out of prison.

Whether this method will be effective is undoubtedly debatable. However as the government is yet to find away to curb re-offending, perhaps this method should at least be given a thought.

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Photo Credit: Alakhai85

4 thoughts on “Prisoners Should Be Allowed To Vote. No Question.”

    1. MarkLScarbs Yes I agree with everything the open letter and your comments suggested. It is a shame that the mainstream parties do not share these views. To my knowledge only the Green Party believes in giving prisoners the right to vote.

  1. Personally I understand the point made, however, I believe that one should also distinguish between crimes committed by prisoners and grant them the right to vote accordingly. If the act of voting is meant to benefit the nation, then why should one validate the vote of a prisoner who has committed an atrocity? If one, on the other hand, were to distinguish between crimes then prisoners with a prescribed sentence could retain, rightly, their sense of civic duty and would value this concession far more. In addition, if voting were seen as a privilege then feelings of apathy often taking over prisoners with regards to politics (see today’s Guardian in the “Comment is Free” section) would be reduced. @luvjuliet

    1. luvjuliet Legally speaking, voting is a right and not a privilege according to the European Court of Human Rights. It is not an absolute right though as it can of course be restricted for children and the mentally unstable. This is a sound position for a democracy. Allowing the Government to select who can or cannot vote is a very dangerous path to go down as it would allow the elected to chose the electorate, as opposed to the other way around.

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