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Votes For Prisoners


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The recent debate about the rights of prisoners to vote has caught my attention.

 

I'm intrigued by it, and how the MPs are deliberately putting themselves on a collision course with the European Court for Human Rights.

 

BBC Link

 

I very much agree that prisoners can be deprived of their civil rights - to vote, or stand in, an election - I think it is fascinating that Bobby Sands was allowed to stand even while imprisoned for IRA activity (or was he interned?)

 

My understanding of Human Rights Law is that it is big on process and a major objection was that the current ban is all encompassing and not explicitly laid out.

 

My solution would to include loss of civil rights within the sentencing. IE you are sentenced to 5 years in prison and will concurrently loose your civil rights for the same period.

 

But I would also not necessarily make the loss of civil rights the same length as the prison sentence - I'd go for something like - you are sentenced for 20 years, but your loss of civil rights will be reviewed after 10.

 

Regaining civil rights should be apart of the reintegration of the prisoner back into society. If a long term prisoner had started to reform, then he could regain his civil rights while still inside.

 

For minor offenses many wouldn't loose their right to vote at all - and so I can see some prisoners voting - they are a segment of society and so have rights to be invovled in electing representatives for it.

 

Basically my belief is that civil rights are in some way more important than the liberty that prisoners are deprived of. Loss of civil rights should be for a shorter period of time than the imprisonment, but can be based on the behaviour of the prisoner: they have to show some regard to rehabilitation before regaining them.

 

So this creates a non-arbitary, transparent, but still rigourous system, where civil rights are recognized as important, but where people can be denied them due to their unacceptable behaviour. I've no idea if the Hague would be more willing to accept such a system, but it would be alot better than the current idea, and put a prisoners commitment to being a good civic citizen at the heart of their punishment, which I believe is right and proper!

 

The US has a much harsher system where often ex-cons are banned from voting for long periods and even life. I think that is over harsh, but also I don't believe you should just give prisoners the vote carte-blanche either!

 

What do people think?

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I very much agree that prisoners can be deprived of their civil rights - to vote, or stand in, an election - I think it is fascinating that Bobby Sands was allowed to stand even while imprisoned for IRA activity (or was he interned?)

 

Internment was a bit ealier. Bobby Sands was imprisoned (by that time the UK government had framed the conflict as being one of violent organized crime, rather than more morally ambiguous notions like war, insurrection or rebellion) but at the time there was no law against prisoners standing for election. The law we have now prohibiting such a scenario was actually a direct consequence of Sands winning the election!

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Our prisoners have the vote - are we more enlightened than the UK?

I didn't know that - thanks for raising it.

 

Enlightened is a slippery word! It looks like we have a different attitude to prisoner's civil rights than the UK. I'm uncertain if it is better or not.

 

Basically I suspect that most prisoners don't give a stuff about voting - unless there is a chance they could get some compensation money out of it due to the Hague's ruling!

 

My philosophy on life is that people should take an interest in civic matters, and so it should be an issue to have them removed. So I think I'm in favour of civic rights being specifically raised and removed in sentencing - that way prisoners might start thinking about them more seriously!

 

The IOM method makes civil rights an irrelevent issue to a person's criminal behaviour - I think they should be linked.

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I'm suspicious of any motivation behind removing a person's right to vote. What is society gaining from stopping prisoners from voting?

 

I suppose it's more symbolic than a practical concern, the equivalent of saying "You committed a crime against society, so now you're no longer part of society".

 

Plus, they might all vote for a supervillain.

Edited by VinnieK
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I agree with Cameron on this one. If someone has committed a crime the magnitude of which is great enough to warrant a custodial sentence, they deserve to have their civil rights removed.

 

France got around it by saying that it would be dealt with at the time of sentencing, and with no retrospective aspect (i.e. no compensation payments). Now at sentencing basically everyone is told they lose their civil rights. So no change and the eurocrats are happy.

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It would obviously take a very corrupt state to start throwing a section of society in prison just to make election time a bit easier for them (and is probably only a theoretical scenario in Europe these days) but I guess this is to prevent that sort of thing.

 

Also, although at present people who think murder is acceptable are in the minority, there could come a day when they are in the majority. In a true democracy, if that day arrived, then murder would be legalised. But if that majority were in prison for murder then they wouldn't be able to vote and we'd be run by an oppressive government whose perception of morality was out of sync with society's and insisted on locking people up for such petty things as killing.

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I can see the argument against letting prisoners vote. You could say they've forfeited the right by committing the crime - and they knew that this was one of the rights they were risking losing at the time they committed it.

 

I think it's wrong to remove their right to stand. It should be for the electorate to decide who they vote for, not the courts. If that means their mp can't do his job because he's banged up that's their look out.

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To me it's a simple issue.

 

Society vote in a legislation who then make laws for the good of that society (allegedly - well George Osborne, at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!)

 

If you break those laws you are deliberately placing yourself at odds and outside of that society. So as a non-member of that society by your own freedom of choice you don't deserve to have a say in how that society is run.

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I think it's wrong to remove their right to stand. It should be for the electorate to decide who they vote for, not the courts. If that means their mp can't do his job because he's banged up that's their look out.

 

I agree with that. In principle the government should have no business deciding who can and can't stand for election. To hark back to Chinahand's example, what ever you think of Sands being elected to parliament, it was a very powerful message and one perhaps less about support for the IRA than about communicating of the collapse of faith amongst the catholic/nationalist community in the UK parliament and its processes (much more so than an SDLP candidate would have represented). That in my opinion is a legitimate course of action for people to take.

Edited by VinnieK
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To me it's a simple issue.

 

Society vote in a legislation who then make laws for the good of that society (allegedly - well George Osborne, at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!)

 

If you break those laws you are deliberately placing yourself at odds and outside of that society. So as a non-member of that society by your own freedom of choice you don't deserve to have a say in how that society is run.

I agree 100%

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I think the UK vote simply highlights the much deeper problem that the UK (and we also) need to face up to, and one which needs resolving. That is, society is divided into three distinct groups, the first group that believes prison should all be based on rehabilitation, the second that believes it should be based only on punishment, and the third based both on punishment and rehabilitation.

 

With the UK having one of the largest percentages of prisoners/population in Europe, it is time that this debate was removed from party politics, and society as a whole made it's mind up, instead of this lynch mob approach - that was basically IMO what the house of commons demonstrated yesterday - tabloid heaven yesterday to please the punishment group.

 

Fact is, the UK government opened itself to £millions in compensation yesterday - because it has already signed up to the human rights charter (and took part in putting that together).

 

You can't pick and choose human rights. If countries are allowed to do that, what's stopping some banning gays, blacks or whatever else they feel like doing locally?

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Society vote in a legislation who then make laws for the good of that society (allegedly - well George Osborne, at least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask!)
But as I have said many a time, the people who vote are so removed from the decionmaking of this legislation that it really cannot be said to their laws, except

 

If you break those laws you are deliberately placing yourself at odds and outside of that society. So as a non-member of that society by your own freedom of choice you don't deserve to have a say in how that society is run.[/font]
I don't follow this line of thinking. Firstly, there is nothing explicit (or even implicit) to assume that a person being given a custodial sentence is having an additional punishment of having their rights withdrawn. They are simply having their freedom of movement completely removed, as punishment and on the assumption (mistaken in my opinion) that it deters. Nothing further than this is threatened against those who break the law. And considering many people think voting is incredibly important, it seems very bizarre that it isn't made out to be an explicit punishment when meting out the law.

 

But anyway, simply because someone performs an action that is deemed to be at odds with society, why the idea that this means they deserve to have no say in society? Essentially, you are saying that you are no longer a part of society at all. Is that the case? And is that conducive to preventing such people committing crimes in future when they are utterly detached in every way from that society?

 

I agree with Cameron on this one. If someone has committed a crime the magnitude of which is great enough to warrant a custodial sentence, they deserve to have their civil rights removed.
That's even more extreme. People who commit crimes should no longer be afforded the same value as human beings as others, effectively considering them as non-human?
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