Should prisoners be given the right to vote?
The UK has been accused of breaching the European Convention of Human Rights Article 3 of protocol 1 by having a blanket ban on prisoners voting. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) promotes the idea that convicted prisoners should be allowed to vote and have a right to vote, despite the Conservative party being opposed to this view. As a result the ECHR have being pressuring the Tory’s to bow to their rules for many years. This essay will examine the history behind the debate of prisoners voting and, give reasons in favour of the ban and opposing to the ban, whilst strongly promoting the view that prisoners should not have the right to vote. In 1870, under the Forfeiture Act, prisoners automatically lost their right to vote. This was then maintained under the 1983 Representation of the People Act. John Hirst, a criminal convicted of manslaughter, opened a case against the UK government in 2005 where the ECHR ruled that the ban on British felons voting was in opposition to the European Convention on Human Rights (Hirst v UK, 2005). The Council of Europe warned the government that if they did not take action and make a ruling on the voting issue, they risked substantial compensation claims. The Liberal democrats were in favour of allowing certain prisoners to vote whereas the Conservative party are against any reform. Dominic Grieves said, “Civic rights go with civic responsibility, but these rights have been violated by those who have committed imprisonable offences” (Winnett and Whitehead, 2009). People who choose to make irresponsible decisions should not have the responsibility to determine the way the country is run. On the 10th of February 2011 the House of Commons parliamentarians had an in house debate and voted in support of the backbench movement in favour of upholding the current ban where prisoners lose their right to vote, apart from individuals confined for contempt, default or on remand (Davis, 2011). 234 parliamentarians out of 256 voted that it was not justifiable (Davis, 2011). Can prisoners voting be philosophically, morally or politically justifiable (Miles, 2004)? 234 parliamentarians out of 256 voted against prisoners voting that it was not justifiable to allow them to vote (Davis, 2011). Those who have committed a crime or committed a series of crimes and have been incarcerated should lose the right to vote and this view is support by the majority of the House of Commons parliamentarians. The Tory chairman Nick Gibbs is quoted saying, “Being in prison is about losing your liberty and losing the right to free association and engagement in society” (Swinford, 2013). It is therefore clearly questionable and not politically justifiable to allow, killers, and sex offenders to have an impact on the way the country is governed. Incarceration should and does bring with it exclusion from society. The people that break laws should definitely not have the ability to determine the people that create the laws. This is simply common sense and this is what the UK penal policy focuses on (Loader, 2006). The minority argue that we send people to prison with little encouragement to rehabilitate. It is suggested that prisoners should be encouraged to be active in society and by taking away their right to vote their contribution to society is discouraged. Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “You can judge how civilised a society is by how well it treats its prisoners” (Scott, 2011). The British are generally viewed as a civilised nation and it is argued that by taking away the voting right of the prisoners the British demonstrate how uncivilised they can be (Lyon, 2010). Society should be giving the prisoners a chance to change and become rehabilitated active citizens. The former home secretary Jack Straw describes to parliamentarians how the UK makes “every effort to treat prisoners with dignity and to prepare them better for the outside world” (Straw, 2011). This is...
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