7 Mar 2011

Prisoners voting

Neil Carmichael managed to get front page of the SNJ a couple of weeks ago saying he hopes prisoners will get the vote - basically as he says this will mean we wont be liable for the fines. Yet when it came to the vote he voted the opposite way?!! I am not alone in being confused judging by the handful of letters in the local press last week.

Here is what Caroline Lucas said after the vote: "David Cameron says he feels ‘physically sick' - yes, physically sick - at the idea of prisoners having the vote. He finds that the views of the European Court of Human Rights - set up largely by Britain to promote our values of tolerance and respect - make him physically sick. That allowing people in prison to retain their right to vote - and in doing so, perhaps help to encourage them to return to the mainstream of society - makes him sick. I'm proud to be one of just 22 MPs who voted to uphold human rights and to challenge Britain's flouting of European law."

I have been asked about this issue a couple of times so hence this blog - I agree with Caroline - to deny the vote runs counter to rehabilitation - and there was no evidence that disenfranchisement helped to prevent crime.

The Bishop to HM Prisons, the Right Reverend Dr Peter Selby said that not allowing them to vote states "society's belief that once convicted you are a non-person, one who should have no say in how our society is to develop, whose opinion is to count for nothing".

John Hirst who led the campaign said: "Every human being has rights and it is up to us all to ensure that those people get those human rights and not say 'Oh, because they're a prisoner they should be denied them.' "What you forfeit when you go to jail is your liberty - you know, you can't pop down the pub for a pint, you can't have sex with your loved one, you know, that is what you're actually forfeiting - not the vote....When you're a prisoner, the only thing you can do if you want to complain and no-one listens, is riot and lift the roof off - which isn't the best way of going about things. Because we didn't have a vote, there was no will in Parliament to change anything. Prison officers would talk to me and say 'Oh you're a prisoner, you're less than human', and all the rest of it, and I said 'No, I'm not, I'm a human being, I've got rights,' and they'd say 'Well, where are they? What are they?'"

See Stuart Weir's piece in Open Democracy here.

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