Thursday, 10 February 2011

Framing the choice on prison votes

I had no intention on writing about the historic debate today on votes for prisoners, but am sat working and listening to Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues and the line "I shot a man in Reno/just to watch him die" has just put some fire in my belly. 

A huge amount will be written and said about this so I will keep this brief. Those who don't want prisoners to get the vote need to be very careful not to get drawn into a constitutional argument over Britain’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. This is a fight to have another day. There is a real danger that - particularly on the Conservative benches - the debate will descend into a Europe bashing session which will not win over opponents and turn off voters.

A wider debate over the treatment of prisoners and the criminal justice system - including our approach to rehabilitation - should also be avoided. David Cameron has consistently said that he wants to see far ranging changes to the way we rehabilitate prisoners. Don't get sucked in by the liberal politically correct crowd who will claim that a vote is part of a prisoners rehabilitation. It isn't.

Stick instead to the simple fact that the vast majority of voters believe that if you commit a crime then you should be punished. This doesn't mean that prisoners should endure the dangerous and unseemly conditions of Folsom Prison circa 1956. It also doesn't mean that criminals should have the rights of the rest of us in society.

This is a complicated issue, with very many strands of argument that may divert people away from the fact that giving prisoners the vote is simply wrong.   

1 comment:

  1. Agree with your point about not getting distracted in this debate, but I think the issue is very simple. If you are sent to prison because you have been found guilty of a crime, your rights to be free in society (including the right to vote) are suspended for the duration of your sentance.


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