Sunday, 30 May 2010

Votes For Prisoners?

A subject which has been 'bubbling under the surface' for some time now, with little real attention from the media, is the subject of acceding to the European Court of Human Rights ruling that prisoners should be allowed to vote - a subject raised once again by the Observer today.

My own views have been briefly expressed here and those views seem to me to be the basic reason why prisoners should not be allowed to vote. By imprisoning someone for breaking a law, or laws, of society they lose certain freedoms, such as the freedom to please themselves over their daily routine, the freedom to pop out for a packet of cigarettes, the freedom to nip down to the pub - in other words, everyday freedoms. So why on earth should they be allowed a voice in one of the most basic freedoms that are still left to us, namely the freedom to vote? And if that freedom were to be granted then why not the freedom to stand as a candidate? If by some miracle they were to get elected, then what?

The report states that "Penal reformers say giving prisoners the vote is about restoring a fundamental human right that will confer a sense of responsibility and aid their rehabilitation." yet I fail to see that granting prisoners the right to vote will 'confer a sense of responsibility and aid their rehabilitation'. Those who break the law are imprisoned precisely because they had no sense of responsibility and in so lacking, broke the law. Perhaps it would teach a sense of responsibility if, instead of leaving prisoners languishing in cells, they were formed into 'chain gangs' and put to work in communities doing work to aid the communities whose ideals they, the prisoners, scorned - work such as street cleaning, ditch clearing, litter picking etc.

It is also ludicrous that the Electoral Commission should decide that a mechanism to allow prisoners the vote would be by postal, or proxy, vote - nothing like designing a system that has been shown to be open to abuse and fraud for a section of society that has been convicted of abuse and fraud, is there? Likewise, the statement from a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Justice that "Disenfranchisement is an outdated, disproportionate punishment which has no place in a modern prison system with a renewed emphasis on rehabilitation and resettlement." begs the question who decided that. It is for the people against whom crimes have been committed that surely should be the body that decides whether disenfranchisement is a suitable punishment, not politicians or bureaucrats.

Yet a far more important issue is raised by this question of whether prisoners should be allowed to vote and that issue is about self-government as The Lisbon Treaty now allows the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. The convention, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which oversees it, are the foundations of human rights protection in Europe, consequently Britain is therefore subservient to rulings from the ECHR. This means that the decision of how Britain 'orders' various aspect of the way in which her society is run is now in the hands of a foreign court, one which overrides her own national courts.

This question of self-government and thus the right to self-determination is one of the main arguments against Britain's membership of the European Union and one that our politicians fail to accept or acknowledge. Until Britain embraces 'Direct Democracy' the principle of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address of 'government of the people, for the people and by the people', surely the basis for any true democracy, will never be realised.


Woodsy42 said...

"should decide that a mechanism to allow prisoners the vote would be by postal, or proxy,"
I'm entirely with you - I don't see why they should have any rights at all, I think they forfeited those when the chose to offend. But if they did vote I would guess nobody wants a large prison population voting with all the votes being attributed to the constituency housing the prison - it would skew the local result.

Witterings From Witney said...

Ta W42, you raise something that was in my mind and forgot to mention - ie all those votes in the constitutency housing the prison not on really, is it?

Pleased someone else thinks like me!