Prisoners Votes – The Coalition justifies itself – Sort of

Published On January 11, 2011 » 976 Views» Law, Politics
Man is looking through the gates is prison

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The Issue of Prisoners Votes is in the local paper again, with Mark Harper MP (the Forest Seller) laying out the reasons why we have to give Prisoners the vote.

As I wrote in an earlier Blog piece, I don’t agree that prisoners should have the right to vote, and Mr Harpers tone also conveys that he is not exactly happy either.  He is quick to square the blame right on our “international obligations” meaning the European Court of Human Rights.

My problem with his piece is that he does nothing to define the difference between Offenders in Prison and Offenders doing community service or the like.  Just to put it into context about how prison is used, generally the court will have exhausted every other sentence available before considering prison, unless there is a fear for public safety.  Also when we use things like electronic tagging, the offender doesn’t get half the time off for good behaviour, but also they provide their own bed and board 🙂

The Government is also going to only implement the minimum standard, IE only those prisoners serving 4 years or less will be able to vote.  So that is only serious Crown Court offenders.  Does this mean 4 years in sentence, or 8 years of which half would serve in prison and the rest on tag, from the way it is worded so far, then its the latter.  So that is rather a small proportion left.  I can’t help feeling that if your going to do it, then do it and do it properly.  If your going to let almost everyone do it, then don’t cast some arbitrary line, which will no doubt make it more expensive.

I do like the fact that they will have to vote in their home constituency, though only for Parliamentary and Euro elections.   The irony in this is that “Big Society” will be pushing more onto Local Government and therefore Local elections could be more important, yet prisoners will be excluded.  Many prisoners will also be homeless, having lost their accommodation when incarcerated, so do they just lose the right to vote, because you need an address. I presume they will be voting via postal vote otherwise it will be a nightmare for the prison.

So, while I agree with his sentiment, Mark has done nothing to address any of the pertinent issues and deliver on any detail.  I think there is still a lot of work to be done, and they should either make it 4 years sentence (2 years in prison) or even lower, or just open it up to everyone.

Thoughts?

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