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David Cameron recently stated that prisoners under his government would never receive the vote. Last time there was a vote on this issue in 2010 he stated he found it sick that prisoners might get the vote. It is rather clear that Mr Cameron is opposed to giving the prisoners a vote and so are many others in this country, A YouGov poll in 2011 found that 67% are against giving prisoners the vote in this country. So my voice will be firmly in the minority all I am asking for is that we are simply not hypocrites on this issue of which so many are and that we use common sense and logical thinking which so many do not on this issue. Under our current laws any prisoner will not receive the vote; there isn’t a boundary of offence where people can vote in prison it is restricted for everyone. Now ask the question how many of you have broken the law at some point in your lives?
If you have broken the law at some point which many of us have including me would you then restrict the vote to yourself or to me? If the answer is no then why? And please don’t just mutter because you’re not in prison let us not be hypocrites on this issue as it is too important to be. My position is rather clear we should give some prisoners the right to vote because regardless of the fact that they have broken the law many will hopefully one day come out of prison and become fully functioning members of society. They will vote in future elections as free men and women what makes them so different when they’re in prison? We don’t legislate that anyone who has ever been in prison should be denied the vote so why should we deny them the vote while inside? To me there is a logical incoherence in this position against giving prisoners the vote.
The goal of our prisons should be to try and rehabilitate people this is a clear and obvious fact. Michael Howard once stated that prison works except in our country it miserably fails, we have the highest prison population in western Europe and our re-offending rates are horrific, in 2011 90% of those sentenced to a new sentence in prison had offended before. For those who believe it is inevitable that prisoners will re-offend the re-offending rate in Norway is 20% compared to a re-offending rate of around 50% in this country. If we want to rehabilitate people surely giving them a stake in society is a good place to start and what better place than to give them the vote? We saw riots last summer which was due to people feeling they had no stake in society, and we are making the same mistakes time and time again with our prisoners.
For those who argue that it could create a voting block where politicians would target prisons for the mass of votes this isn’t the case, the votes from the prisoners would be used in the ballot that was taking place in their constituency from where they were living before they were imprisoned, so prisoners won’t decide whole constituencies or the elections through block voting with prisons deciding constituencies. Some like to state that parliament is sovereign and the ECHR has no business to intervene with parliaments voting. This is entirely correct, parliament is sovereign and it has already had a vote on this issue however we will receive a fine and our standing in Europe will be damaged if we do not go forward with this measure. But why should we need the ECHR to tell us this is the right thing to do? It seems to me that we should come to this decision as it is the rational thing to do and that we’re supposed to be a modern country with values that respect every individual.
I am not arguing to give the insane (who are already precluded) or mass murderers like Ian Brady a right to vote I am simply arguing that some prisoners should have the right to vote if they choose. I am arguing that there is no real reason why some prisoners shouldn’t be awarded the vote and that giving them the vote can only have positive effects. What negative effect could come of daring to give prisoners the vote?