Should prisoners be given the right to vote? Quite simply: no they shouldn’t. Hundreds of debates don’t consider the grey areas of certain situations, but for this there can really only be one clear answer: it is completely and utterly wrong to suggest that such legislation should be taken into consideration, let alone passed.
When applying for a job you are often questioned about your criminal history. Which, depending on the answer given, can sometimes obstruct the prospect of attaining that job. If this stigma and so-called discrimination, which is what this argument comes down to, is hindering ex-criminals in the real world, how does this mean that they shouldn’t be made exempt from social and worldly privileges whilst in prison? Surely it should be the other way round so that whilst in prison they are excluded from the liberties that the rest of society takes part in, but after being released and having paid their price, all human respect and opportunities should be restored?
Yes, not all prisoners are intrinsically bad people. Some have just made mistakes, but that doesn’t then mean that you would give some prisoners the vote and some not. This debate is after all an ultimatum: you either give all of them the vote or none. After watching shows like ‘Orange is the New Black’ recently, it does open your eyes to the fact that each “inmate” is a human being with a story to tell. Whilst it is, of course, just a television show, the point of the argument in favour of prisoners getting the vote is partly to encourage the fact that prisoners are people too.
This was exemplified in 2001 when a prisoner, John Hirst, claimed that the ban on the prisoner’s right to vote was incompatible with the Human Rights Act of 1998. I have just two things to say to this; firstly, if you want the privileges that everyone else has, then just avoid things like manslaughter and anything else which is deemed illegal. Secondly, if taking away your freedom isn’t taking away one of the intrinsic rights you were born with, why isn’t that being addressed and not just the fact that “doing time” means you won’t experience the excitement of voting in a politician who then doesn’t stick to what he got voted in for in the first place? Of course, prisoners are people; they are just people who happen to have fewer opportunities when they are found to have disobeyed the law.
One point that I think is often ignored in this debate is the question of voting itself. The act of voting seriously seems to be an actual job for most people in Britain these days, as the last general election had a voter turnout of just 65% and as a more extreme example, the Police and Crime Commissioners Election, received an astonishingly poor 15% turnout. Ironically, the year that John Hirst came forth with his appeal for the right to vote (2001), the UK had witnessed its worst general election turnout to date of just 59%. If prisoners are honestly more enthused to vote than the citizens who are actually living and contributing within society, then I fear we’ve well and truly hit rock bottom.
Quite recently, the Supreme Court dismissed appeals from two prisoners over the right to vote, and rightly so. I know that if I one day found myself in prison; I would expect that during my detainment, I would not be able to have access to certain freedoms and resources – the right to vote being one of them.
Read the other side of the argument here.