I have a strange sort of feeling that something vaguely significant might be happening today…Anyone?
And on a-totally-not-related topic today’s post is on the… right to vote.
The UK has until the 22nd November to announce what it plans to do about the EU ruling that a blanket ban on prisoners voting is illegal.
I’m going to leave the whole question of whether Britain should follow EU directives well alone (Nothing makes me want to go to sleep faster than the intricacies of European law, ask my college law teacher) but the issue of whether prisoners should have the vote is both an interesting one and one that seems invoke highly emotional response.
One that if the papers are to be believed, tends to skew in the direction of “HELL NO.” Only 6% of the population thinks all prisoners should get the vote, and David Cameron himself has said “No one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this government.”
And I can understand the argument why. Though it might not seem like it in this the land of increasing apathy and endless moaning about the bloody government, the vote is a precious thing.
It’s a right that women in this country have fought for, been arrested and imprisoned for been on hunger strike for. It’s a right that POC in the US were beaten and killed for, when they tried to exercise it. It’s a right that people all over the world have started bloody revolutions for. It needs to be treated with respect
And prisoners have done something terrible, terrible enough that their liberty has been taken from them. They already get Televisions and Xboxes why should we give them the vote too?
Ignoring the whole Television’s and X-box refrain, (I’m going to write a post on that some other time) The most obvious answer to that is because it’s a right, not a privilege. Every mentally stable person over the age of 18 has that right, whether or not they choose to exercise it .And the government deciding that a whole section (albeit a small one of around 0.2%) doesn’t have it has pretty ominous connotations. Why should the privileged few decide who gets what is supposed to be an inalienable right?
But we do take away rights from prisoners- liberty being the most obvious- so why not this too?
Well, it would seem that prisoners who feel more connected to society are more likely to be successfully rehabilitated upon leaving. And with high recidivism (re-offending) rates- 1 in 3 people before a judge having been there some 15 times before- why shouldn’t we give them this one thing- remind them that they can have a voice in society too?
I know it doesn’t fit with the whole “punish the evildoer” thing we have going on, but those in prison are too often society’s most broken and disenfranchised. I’m not saying they are blameless or it’s all society’s fault, but we fit into the problem somehow.
It’s not easy to see if prisoners being able to put a cross in the box will actually be a part of the solution but I think its worth a try.