Friday, November 23, 2012

Votes for prisoners

I have to say I'm confused about all the fuss regarding prisoner's "human rights" when it comes to voting as it seems a rather simple solution exists.

As it stands prisoners don't get to vote. The logic being that as they've decided not to adhere to the tenets of society they should have no say in how that society forms; I can see that and I can agree with it. The converse is that they are still people and as voting is a right of people they should be able to vote; expect people also have a right to free trade and movement and no-one's giving them that.

The options on the table seem to be:

  1. Give all prisoners the vote;
  2. Give all prisoners with a sentence of less than 4 years the vote; or
  3. Deny all prisoners the vote.
Ignoring where that figure of 4 years comes from (our Parliaments last 5 years) these proposals are poor options as they simple discuss voting in and of itself and ignore the purpose of voting. People vote for a government to set the course of the society they are living in; prisoners don't live in the same 'society' so should have no vote; except....

Consider a prisoner given a 10-year sentence that started in 2002 they would finish their sentence this year of 2012, but they would then be living as part of a society governed by a Party they had no part in electing as they missed the election back in 2010. An argument can be "Tough, shouldn't have been a criminal then", but that's a response to anything including mistreatment. A better solution would have been to let them vote because they're to be released.

No arbitrary limits required - if a prisoner is expected to finish their sentence within a Parliamentary term they should get to vote in the election that covers that period. Same goes for the EU elections. My example prisoner above should have been able to vote in both the 2009 European election and the 2010 UK General election, but not the 2004 or 2005 elections respectively.

Okay some may get released early, but that's an unknown - they only get the vote if they are expected to be release during that period.

Why can't I see this option being discussed? It just seems the most obvious compromise.