General Question

sarahjane90's avatar

Should prisoners be afforded the right to vote?

Asked by sarahjane90 (1805 points ) February 13th, 2011

The buzz about the ECHR’s recommendation that the UK should lift the blanket ban that prisoners are not allowed to vote, has created quite a political stir. MPs have voted against this in a landslide fashion, as well as the Prime Minister, who is fully supporting the ban staying as it is.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12409426

What do you think about these recent developments? Do you think it is right that the EU & ECHR should have jurisdiction over the UK, or any country, in this area? Do you really think that someone who has committed a crime, should also be able to shape a country’s future? By the way, I am not saying I feel this way about people who have committed offenses such as a traffic violation, etc, but those who have committed heinous acts.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

135 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

Felons ( those who have committed a felony ) in the USA are not allowed to vote. I want it to stay this way.

phoebusg's avatar

I would say it should depend on the type of crime(s) – but where do you draw the line and why?

markferg's avatar

Yes, criminals should be allowed to vote. If they could materially affect the results of elections then the country would have to consider how this state of affairs came about in the first place.

It seems that normal human nature is kicking in here with caveats and exceptions “not for traffic violations”,,,etc. In other words, not for the crimes I think I might commit! If there are crimes I don’t think I’ll commit then these should be on the ‘no voting’ list! Frankly, that’s childish.

Mikewlf337's avatar

No. Prisoners should not be allowed to vote as long as they are imprisoned. Once they are released they should re-register and be allowed to vote again.

bunnygrl's avatar

I agree with @Mikewlf337. Too much emphasis is being placed on the human rights (and it is the human rights act thats being used in this case) of the criminals and no thought given to their victims. If someone commits a crime and is taken out of society (by way of a custodial sentence) then they absolutely should not vote until they re-enter society again. Lots of lawyers are using the human rights act to get rich and its not being used for its original intended purpose. There was a very good debate on this this morning on BBC1 and a man was there talking about his daughter who had been raped and murdered, there was also a man in the audience who was suing for compensation for not being allowed to vote during his (now past) sentence, another member of the audience asked him, if he got his compensation would he be giving any part of it to the daughter of the woman he murdered, since he had deprived her of the human right to having a mother, and he said no he wouldn’t, because he deserved it. That about summed it up for me. The ability to take part in the political process is not a human right it is a civil one I think, and as such should be reserved for people who take part in society, pay their taxes, do not break the law and certainly do not hurt other citizens.

RareDenver's avatar

I’ve given this some thought myself and my gut feeling is that prisoners should not be able to vote. However, denying prisoners the vote can theoretically be used to keep a Government in power by imprisoning those they feel would vote against them. See this question from last year

Mikewlf337's avatar

@RareDenver The constitution protects us from that. I don’t know about other countries.

ragingloli's avatar

Yes. They are still citizens.

cookieman's avatar

Why not? They couldn’t possibly be less informed and/or ignorant than the “free” voting population.

RareDenver's avatar

The real problem is if the ban is maintained it opens the UK Government up to being sued by those prisoners through the European Courts. Considering the state of the UK’s finances the thought of millions of pounds of public money being paid to prisoners in the form of compensation leaves me feeling more uneasy than giving prisoners voting rights. I don’t want to see my taxes being used to line the pockets of prisoners and their lawyers, I want to see them being spent on the NHS, Education, Policing, Community Libraries, Defence etc

kess's avatar

Why not….?
....Unless the real crime is being caught

12Oaks's avatar

Of course not.

bunnygrl's avatar

@RareDenver did you watch the debate a few days ago on BBCParliament? it was prior to the MPs voting on this issue, and one of them, an International Law lawyer, stated that the prisoners can be awarded any sum, and the European parliament can pass down fines, but that the UK Government is under no obligation to pay either. Think to the number of fines France has received over their handling of deporting Romany citizens (which was deplorable by the way) fine after fine they were given and paid none of them. The only difference is that they have a government willing to stand up to the EU (even though I didn’t agree with their actions) where ours (UK) spends its whole time wringing its hands worrying about what the EU thinks rather than listening to the people of the UK who want out of the whole shady organisation.

RareDenver's avatar

@bunnygrl I didn’t see that debate but I don’t think ‘not paying our fines’ is really a good long term strategy.

It would be interesting to see what the UK populations stance is on EU membership, are you aware of any recent polls?

asmonet's avatar

I don’t think felons should be allowed to vote – you’ve made some serious life boo-boos to end up a felon. I can’t really trust you to have the foresight or judgment necessary to pick a political leader.

I do however think we need to rework the a sizable amount of our criminal justice system.

Some shit just shouldn’t be a felony.

the100thmonkey's avatar

The question really boils down to whether you believe that:

A) Voting rights are human rights

and

B) Breaking the social contract (i.e. committing a crime) is tantamount to foregoing certain human rights.

Personally, I think prisoners should be able to vote. As @ragingloli said, they are still citizens.

Thought experiment: a demagogue is in the electoral position to take power. Part of their electoral platform is the execution of all prisoners. It’s OK though, as we’ve ignored the rights of prisoners before.

Would you really be comfortable denying prisoners the right to vote?

As I said, it’s hypothetical, but I hope it’s illustrative.

roundsquare's avatar

A large part of this turns on how good the criminal justice system is. E.g. if there a plea bargaining system? How extensive is it? If you plea guilty do you lose your right to vote? What is the estimated number of false positives? Etc…

Also, by not letting felons vote, it may be harder for politicians to focus on the social problems that cause such crime in the first place.

inthenighttol's avatar

What is the aim of prison? To reform, punish or both and if both what about points were both maybe compromised, lets take for example that voting would help to refrom what I’m not saying it does.

My view is prison is to reform and pervent crime in the first place, that could include punishment if that reduces any of those, though I’m not a fan of punishment for punishment sake otherwise we are just as bad as the criminal.
I have no idea if voting helps any of them so what is my view if voting doesn’t change anything then I still think they should vote as I see no reason apart from what I see as a illogical argument that two wrongs make a right.

I’d be very happy to debate my fundimental point what prison is just to prevent crime.

bunnygrl's avatar

@RareDenver I was trying to find a link on the BBC iplayer to the debate in Westminster (which was facinating by the way) but can’t seem to find it yet, it must be there though, or be repeated at some point? lots of the debates are. I have a pal who keeps making fun of my watching it, the BBC Parliamnet channel that is (as well as every other political programme on tv), she says it’s really generous of the BBC to run a channel just for me, since nobody else cares lol, well as I keep telling her, everybody should care. The episode of “The Big Questions” from this morning which ran the debate (its the middle section of the programme the 2nd question of the day) you can watch it here

As to the Europe issue, just run a search honey, I did and there are so many polls and all pretty much saying the same thing. Also did you know that there was a private members bill recently soundly defeated in the Commons that would have given every citizen the right to decide whether we remain a part of the EU or are able to leave? there are LOTS of articles on it online but here is the first one at the top of the page, which comes from the Mirror There is no democracy in Britain, the UK people were promised a vote on membership during the campaign for Blair’s 3rd term in office and we’re still waiting, Cameron is just as unlikely, since they know the answer would be a resounding no vote.
edit: apologies for spolling over onto EU stuff honeys, although the OP did ask whether the EU courts should have any jurisdiction over these matters, and they absolutely should not. I’ll never forgive Brown (worst PM we’ve had ever IMHO) for signing so much away with the Lisbon Treaty in spite of the enormous feeling held amonst the electorate against it. He was determined to force it through and force it through he did, to our severe cost.

john65pennington's avatar

If a person broke into your home and killed all your family and was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life, do you believe this person should have the right to do anything? This is law in America with convicted felons.

bunnygrl's avatar

@john65pennington well said sir. That was the point the Dad of that poor girl (who had been raped and murdered) was trying to make on TV this morning.

MacBean's avatar

If a person broke into your home and killed all your family and was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life, do you believe this person should have the right to do anything?
.
To vote on issues that affect them, or will affect them if/when their sentence is over, yes…

inthenighttol's avatar

@john65pennington
Yes he/she should still vote.

ragingloli's avatar

@john65pennington
Yes, certainly.
your cheap appeal to emotion does not sway me one bit

inthenighttol's avatar

@ragingloli
I felt the same way when I read it. I remember someone doing it to me before about the death penalty and I was like no even if he killed my whole family I would not want him to die.

MacBean's avatar

@inthenighttol Do people look at you like you have something pulsating and discolored growing out of the side of your head when you tell them you really mean it when you say you’re against the death penalty? Because I do. It gets tiresome.

inthenighttol's avatar

@MacBean
Not really I don’t know many people for it so the few people who are for it come to expect my views really.

bunnygrl's avatar

Goodness, we’re discussing voting rights, not the death penalty! Which incidentally I am spirit, body and soul, wholeheartedly against. Mind you, I also believe that someone who rapes and kills a girl being released after less than 10 years to get on with their life while the girls family are left to suffer till they die isn’t right either. If you take a life you should be locked up till you rot but no, the death penalty is no better than the state being a murderer too.

john65pennington's avatar

All I can say is that sometimes talk is cheap. Until this fact actually hits home to a person personally, we can all sit back and give opinions. I have actually watched this happen in a family that believed a persons rights should be forever protected. I believe this do a degree, but not with convicted felons…...serving their time.

Until a serious crime hits home to you, you can never understand the emotional stress the remaining family goes through.

inthenighttol's avatar

@john65pennington
Policies should not be based on emotional anyway, so even if I did chance my mind if it happened to me it means fuck all as it’s not an arguments just a bunch of statements from my emotions.

bunnygrl's avatar

@inthenighttol You sound terribly young honey, I’m not saying this to offend you I’m really not, honestly, I just think that 20 or 30 years from now, with some life experience, (again no offence is intended) you’ll feel differently. Policy (and politics in general) are fuelled by passion, by the strongest of emotions, thats how laws are made. It takes a cool head to interprete those laws yes, but you can’t deny the passion that brings them into existence to begin with.
hugs
ps: welcome to fluther :-)

CaptainHarley's avatar

I have a sign on my home: “No tresspassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.”

Some people are beyond the pale. Come to rob, steal, rape and kill, and you won’t have the opportunity to enjoy your taxpayer sposored, 30-year vacation.

john65pennington's avatar

Captain Harley….I understand your meaning to protect your property, but its just property and not a human life. Here is a case in point:

A man owned many acres in the west. Out in the middle of his property was a small wood house, he used to stop and keep beer in a cooler on days of farming. Someone, discovered his cooler. The man, after man breakins, decided to take the law into his own hands. He devised a shotgun to be pointed at the house door. Next time the intruder entered, he would be shot. The intruder was shot, but survived. He sued the property owner and won, big time!
The court ruled in the intruders favor, stating that deadly force cannot be used just to protect ones property. This case law had rippling effects across America and is still the law today.

I just hope your intruders are not familiar with the law.

CaptainHarley's avatar

The law in Texas is radically different, @john65pennington . We not only have “the Castle Doctrine,” we can legally use deadly force to prevent property theft.

iamthemob's avatar

Thank you @ragingloli, @roundsquare, and @inthenighttol (sorry if I missed anyone here) – your answers make me feel slightly less disturbed.

The problem with disenfranchising those in prison, or ex-felons, is that, when combined with various other laws, we end up in the U.S. with a ridiculously skewed system that de facto presents huge swaths of the poor and many racial minorities from voting. Realizing that black men are 8 times more likely to go to prison is just the start of it.

Bringing in the whole “what would you want if someone killed your family” argument into the discussion is particularly problematic. The reason why we have the state intervene is so that we aren’t the ones making these decisions. Anyone who’s seen “Legally Blond” should know the Aristotle quote “Law is reason, free from passion.” That’s the point – we do what we should as best for all of us – not just what one of us wants at the time.

@bunnygrl – You can’t deny that there is passion that brings the law into being, but that passion should be tempered whether it is or it is not. Laws that are the result of passionate cries from politicians or the citizens are often the worst as well as some of the best. What @inthenighttol is saying is not related to policy making, mind you, but rather to application of the law. Should the law be applied more strictly to one criminal because the victim at hand tends to be able to more eloquently state the harm done? No.

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Passion should be tempered whether it is or it is not.” – @iamthemob

Why??

It was my understanding that taking statements from the next of kin at the end of a trial was an attempt to allow the jury to feel the emotional distress the accused caused them.

Nullo's avatar

No. They have, by their actions, opted out of the established systems.

ragingloli's avatar

It is an attempt to incite the mob (the mob being the jury) a bit more, to sway them to your side. Especially useful if the actual evidence is insufficient.

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – Tempered is different than disregarded. I focused on victim impact statements in my last year of law school talking about the issues surrounding the victim rights movement generally…and you’re right, that’s the point.

But that as a factor is something that the jury should not be considering – if the victim, for example, is for some reason unlikeable, why should that result in less punishment? What if he was harmed more than a likeable victim? What if the victim reminded you simply of someone you didn’t like, but was generally likeable?

It brings in all the arbitrary factor the jury system attempts to control for by making it a group decision.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

I heartily agree that as much arbitrariness as possible should be removed from the entire judicial process, but I don’t see emotions as being “arbitrary.”

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – You seem to be reading what I’m writing in too absolute a sense. As I said, tempered is not disregarded.

Here’s the deal – emotional empathy is part of the process of making a law as it well should be – however, when we look at the criminal law, we have made many actions criminal because we’ve agreed that there is some harm to the victim already.

The fact that there is a victim is a foregone conclusion. When we agree that it is wrong to do something to another so that it must be made criminal, we attempt to bind ourselves to punishing within certain guidelines regardless of the victim because we recognize that our feelings regarding individuals in these situations can mean that one person at one time gets punished in a vastly different way than another would in another.

Victim statements end up reintroducing all of that arbitrariness we tried to control for in the first place. Emotions aren’t arbitrary, which is why we’ve called x behavior a crime – it evokes an emotional reaction of anger or sadness, etc. But emotions lead to arbitrary decisions when we introduce them as part of the process and especially as a focus as we do in these cases.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not entirely sure I agree.

( I’m tempted to say, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out,” but I won’t do that. ; )) )

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley

Imagine that you are mistakenly arrested and it goes to trial.

Aren’t you glad that someone like you isn’t just given the decision (tempted to let God sort ‘em out), and that the criminal justice system intervenes?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Yes. If the only felonies out there were rape and murder, then, well, I’d still feel that if rights are inalienable there’s nothing a person can do to forfeit them (otherwise, they, by definition, aren’t “inalienable”), but I think the case would be stronger. However, when you consider the number of dumb young kids who toked and passed a joint or took their dad’s car out for a joyride or even the number of people who beat up the person their SO was cheating on them with, to say that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on issues that will affect them and their loved ones for quite some time seems cruel and unusual.

Plus, when you add in the racial and class minorities that fill up the vast majority of the prisons, it’s really hard for me to say that it’s not used for less than honorable reasons.

tinyfaery's avatar

Of course.

CaptainHarley's avatar

LMAO @iamthemob

In life there are no guarantees against accident, misidentification, etc. You does yer best and then takes yer chances. : )

I don’t have any solutions for the “overrepresentation” of minorities. I wish I did.

iamthemob's avatar

Maybe the minorities do.

Maybe that’s why we should let them vote.

flutherother's avatar

Yes, in a democracy everyone has a right and even a duty to vote and no voter has the right to take away someone else’s right to vote.

bkcunningham's avatar

In the US, the right to vote for felons and others with criminal records varies from state to state and the DC. Some states even allow felons and incarerated people to vote from jail/prison. There is no federal regulation in the US regarding voting by felons.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – A good point, although by “some” you mean “two.” ;-)

So practically, there is a near universal U.S. disenfranchising of prisoners (well, felony prisoners).

bkcunningham's avatar

This link shows that in five states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and South Dakota) people who are convicted felons may vote upon completion of parole. In 18 states (Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin) people with felony convictions may vote upon completion of all supervised released. What am I misreading here?

http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000286

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – Prisoners are imprisoned. You’re talking about people who have been released/parolees.

People who are not in prison are not prisoners.

bkcunningham's avatar

I misread your response. Geez, I am sorry @iamthemob I’ve been traveling and feel like I have bad jetlag plus a terrible head cold starting. You meant prisoners can vote in only two states. My bad. I totally didn’t read that one right.

PhiNotPi's avatar

Here is my opinion-

People who are in prison shouldn’t be able to vote. Since their votes affect society, and they aren’t a part of society, they shouldn’t be voting. However, I have to agree that if prisoners voting will cause a change in the outcome, then either the race is extremely close, or there are way too many people locked up in prisons.

People who were in prison should be able to vote once their sentence ends. This is part of trying to rehabilitate them into society. If they are truely part of normal society again, they should have all of the human/civil right that other people would have, such as the right to vote.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – no problem at all. ;-)

@PhiNotPi – Are you in the U.S.? I’ll note that we rank #1 in imprisoning our population.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Which is part of why I’m so against it. If we locked up a very small portion, I’d feel the same way, but in more of a “what are ya gonna do, eh?” kinda way. But when we like to lock people up for any old damn thing, it’s really hard to say that these are the worst of the worst, instead of your sister, your neighbor, your best friend, or even you.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

That’s because we got all the culls from Europe, the rebellious, the malcontented, the criminal. Surely there’s a genetic component to those!

rooeytoo's avatar

First you alienate yourself from the system by committing a crime, then you want to take advantage of the privileges of the system, one of which is voting.

I think you can only be on one side. If you are a law abiding member of society you have privileges, if you are not you shouldn’t.

Once someone has paid their debt to society and becomes a contributing member thereof, then they may have the privilege once again.

@john65pennington – I am with you.

john65pennington's avatar

Captain Harley, do you have a source for this law in Texas? I would love to read it.

jellyfish3232's avatar

It depends on the type of crime, in my opinion. If you’re in jail for a simple robbery of trespassing charge, than you should be allowed to vote. Higher and more serious offenses should result in the loss of that privilege.

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – I would check out this timeline, which is fairly complete in demonstrating how disenfranchisement of criminals has often been used as a tool of the government against “those not like us.”

Considering that being caught having gay sex used to result in disenfanchisement, and currently drug charges do – indeed, being an addict basically means that you might not be able to vote but being an alcoholic is safe using their drug of choice – and smokers just don’t have anything to fear – well, I think there are serious problems to the “prisoners shouldn’t vote” stance.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob And while I’m really not trying to start the pot vs booze debate, there’s really something wrong when one joint can earn you a felony, but a lifetime of alcoholism can’t.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily – I agree that the pot v. booze debate always is a bit dicey, and rarely do I like getting into it too, the fact that doing one and not the other means that you lose the right to vote (which I wouldn’t call a privilege, but a right that is the basis of a democratic nation), even if temporarily, seems insane.

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – I guess I belong to the group who believes that if you don’t wanna do the time, don’t do the crime. There are a lot of silly irrelevant laws on the books, but they are nonetheless laws and I must obey them and if I choose not to and get caught, well it was my choice. And I am required to pay the consequences. Everyone knows that and they make their own choice, whether it is smoking or driving drunk or robbery or murder. If you want to be a voter, don’t break the law or don’t get caught.

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – So you believe that we all have equal ability to avoid being caught up in criminal activity?

flutherother's avatar

Prisons are created by society and prisoners are part of society. I can’t understand the point of view of those who think that because someone is given a jail sentence that they have somehow excluded themselves from humanity. They still have parents, brothers and sisters and perhaps children and they themselves are still human. We can’t simply pretend that they don’t really exist.

meiosis's avatar

Yes, prisoners should have the right to vote. As a compromise, I think maybe only those prisoners who will be released within the lifetime of the parliament being voted on should be enfranchised, but as a principle I can’t really see why they should lose the right in addition to the loss of liberty they suffer. They don’t lose other fundamental rights when in prison.

FWIW, the ECHR has absolutely no connection with the EU. It came into force in 1953, four years before the Treaty of Rome that established what became the EU.

The rights it protects are “the right to life, the right to a fair hearing, the right to respect for private and family life, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the protection of property. The Convention prohibits, in particular, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, forced labour, arbitrary and unlawful detention, and discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms secured by the Convention”. I find it astonishing that people can argue against any of this.

@RareDenver “It would be interesting to see what the UK populations stance is on EU membership, are you aware of any recent polls?”

I can do better than a poll. At the General Election in May 2010, the UK Independence Party, campaigning of a platform of leaving the EU, received 919,546 votes, which was 3.1% of the total. So, not a great deal of appetite for leaving the EU, despite the rabidly anti-EU nature of the popular press,

inthenighttol's avatar

I would just like to ask the people who agree with punishment for punishment sake, why do you agree with that, what is it for?

Punishment for punishment sake is punishment that does not help to reform. Is it just to make you feel better?

iamthemob's avatar

@Roby – and why not?

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – yep I do. The choice for some is harder than for others because of the way they were raised, but many triumph over adversity. Just like not all children of alcoholics become alcoholics or not all children raised on welfare become welfare recipients themselves. Everyone has choices.

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – If the choice is harder for some than others, then how do they have equal ability? If I live in an area infested with gang warfare, without sufficient police protection, is it my free choice to join a gang if the other choice is to not align at all, and be a target of that gang?

Is it my choice if my parent pimps me out to avoid drugs and stay in school, when I can hardly get to school and drugs are the only thing to make it tolerable?

Paying the price for committing a crime isn’t the question at issue here – it’s whether, considering that we do not all get afforded what amounts to real freedom of choice, the fact that we make objectively bad choices that may have been the best available to us at the time means that we should be prevented from participating as a citizen.

Everyone has choices – but not everyone has as many choices, or any good ones at all.

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – I see, you are arguing about the equal ability part. No, not all have equal ability but I don’t see where that enters into guilty or innocent. Are you saying if someone commits murder they should not be held accountable because they didn’t have the same opportunity to not murder as someone else? The laws apply to all (well except rock stars and Charlie Sheen apparently). And Britney Spears. If I were picked up for shoplifting and I couldn’t afford the lawyers she does, I would probably suffer a more serious punishment. I accept that and if I don’t like it I have to work harder, make more money so I can afford her attorneys. Or don’t shoplift in the first place. There is never going to be complete equality or fairness in this world. I accept that and live with it.

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – I stated specifically that “Paying the price for committing a crime isn’t the question” – because someone was raised so that it was likely that they would end up being a criminal doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held legally accountable for committing that crime. It’s not whether they should be given a get out of jail free card – it’s that in addition to having to go to prison, do we disenfanchise them?

These are, in many cases, people already at the fringes of society. When they are released from prison, they can probably forget about getting a job – not only have they been out of the workforce, they are not offered anything amounting to real training or education in an effective manner, they are essentially dropped in the same environment that led them to a life of crime, and they have to disclose their criminal past or lie and risk getting caught on an application.

Preventing them from voting while in prison is just another way of saying to them “You don’t have anything to say in this country.” Literally, in fact.

And saying that we’ll never have complete equality/fairness is a red herring, really – of course that’s true. But do we compound that? Do we remove from the democratic discussion the voices of those that, in fact, have the greatest need to be heard because they have the least power in the social sphere?

nebule's avatar

I am totally with @iamthemob I was trying to find the words to describe how I feel about the matter and it seems they have already been chosen perfectly! x

rooeytoo's avatar

We just see it differently. You have said nothing to change my mind and obviously vice versa.

But just one last point, maybe it should depend on whether or not they were registered voters before they went to prison. I think that is fairly relevant. Don’t you?

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – Nope. More than likely those who were raised in the worst circumstances are the least likely to be registered voters.

meiosis's avatar

Why should the right to vote be removed from prisoners and not, say, the right to freedom of religion?

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis the way I understand this issue is, the US Constitution doesn’t guarantee a “right” to vote. This has been decided in a 1974 US Supreme Court decision Richardson v. Ramirez. Basically, voting laws are left to the states.

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham The question refers to the the UK’s flouting of the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, which confers an inalienable right to vote. That the USA has lesser standards on basic human rights is interesting but, in the context of this discussion, moot.

I’ve yet to see anybody come up with a coherent reason why this right, as opposed to others, should be forfeited by prisoners.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – Absolutely true. Of course, ask most people if voting is a right, and you’ll get a “yes.” And in terms of making it international, the UDHR (main human rights document of the UN) enshrines voting as a right.

And really – the First Amendment guarantees free speech, thought to be the cornerstone of democracy. If voting is not the most fundamental form of speech in a democracy…I don’t know what is.

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis I thought you were talking about America in your previous question about the right to freedom of religion.

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham No, I was referring to one of the rights that the ECHR confers. It’s basically a lot of the the same rights as the US constitution (albeit interpreted slightly differently) plus a few extra that the US doesn’t have.

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis so, if I have this correct, the UK is part of the EU (except for the monetary part) and the ECHR recommended that the UK adhere to their policies of allowing prisoners to vote because of treaties between the UK and the ECHR. Yet, the Prime Minister and others in the UK are saying no.

sarahjane90's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes, you are along the right lines. However, the ECHR must be respected by Member States, in order to become/be a member of the EU. (And I am referring to the Convention on Human Rights here).

That is part of the reason why Turkey has had such problems becoming a member of the EU, due to their haphazard stance on human rights, and the like.

sarahjane90's avatar

Also… the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK has incorporated Convention rights into UK law, which is intended to protect human rights set out in the Convention, making it extremely difficult to devise an effective way to legally avoid it without causing an huge uproar and protest from members of the EU/UK – which could even open the UK up for added threats of being sued for millions. Before this Act, basically, the Convention stood as just a persuasive document; but did not have a legally binding effect. Now it does, so it has considerable impact on the way which all Member States must conduct their affairs.

bkcunningham's avatar

@sarahjane90 in one respect, it is a matter of the UK’s sovereign rights, despite being a member of the EU. In my mind, it is very, very basically compared to states’ right in America. Is that correct?

meiosis's avatar

Just to restate – The UK’s acceptance of the ECHR has absolutely zero to do with our membership of the EU. We signed the ECHR in 1950, over twenty years before we joined the EEC (which became the EU).

Before we incorporated the Human Rights Act into UK law, the ECHR did have binding effect on the UK, it’s just that citizens had to take their appeals to the ECHR. All the Human Rights Act did, in essence, was give our supreme court more of a say in how it is interpreted and make it easier for citizens to appeal.

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis if you don’t mind me asking and showing my ignorance on the matter, how long has the ECHR upheld voting rights for prisoners? So my question to that is, how long has the UK disobeyed the ECHR on this matter and what has brought it to a head now?

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – The ECHR ruling has been in effect for five years. Parliament has recently, it seems, voted to uphold the ban on prisoners voting – but that vote is apparently not binding on the government. The vote is, however, the catalyst that seems to have been the push for th coverage.

meiosis's avatar

The judgement was handed down in October 2005, after a prisoner serving a life sentence for manslaughter (on the basis of diminished responsibility) took the UK government to court in 2001, and appealed to the ECHR when the judgement went against him. The prisoner was released on licence in 2004.

Given the clear judgement from Strasbourg, the UK government must either change the law to comply of face potential claims for compensation from prisoners. The current fuss is a result of parliament voting against such reforms.

CaptainHarley's avatar

What so many people seem to forget is that society has a right to protect itself in the future from violence and from those who have committed violence. This is why we lock people up, and why we execute criminals who are exceptionally violent.

To say that someone needs to be locked away from the rest of us for our own protection, and then to turn around and allow them to vote for those who will run the State/Country/Nation is illogical.

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis so it really goes back, in the UK at least, to the prisoner John Hirst who admitted to killing his landlord. He posted a YouTube video where he’s smoking a joint, drinking champagne singing, “I shot the sheriff,” and said on the video the decision to give prisoners the right to vote is a victory for, ”...murderers, paedophiles and rapists.”

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – It might be illogical if disenfranchisement applied to violence and not felonies. Many violent crimes are also associated with black market economies, from participants on all levels of the market, so violence is in many ways tangential to their crime but also a product of the laws currently in effect.

The problem is that the law overreaches to include every single person in prison on a felony charge regardless (in the U.S.) of the nature of the crime.

Further, it’s as illogical to think these individuals could somehow really bring down some form of “political violence” on the rest of society generally – I’d be interested to see someone running on a “Pro-Violent Criminals” platform and carrying the day. Of course, the reason we have a system of checks and balances is to make sure that no one election can fuel a sudden absolute shift in policy.

@bkcunningham – Not really. It’s about the UK law which was not in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Unfortunately, laws that protect all of us protect, well, all of us.

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham It’s distasteful but, as @iamthemob says, fundamental human rights apply to everyone.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis no offense to you is intended, but that is all the more reason I’m glad to be an American where the Constitution doesn’t look at voting as a Constitutional right.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – So you are happy that the U.S., in this instance, has fewer substantive civil rights?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Perhaps it would help to view the right to vote as a privilege rather than a basic human right, which is exactly the way the founders in the US saw it. Initially, the right to vote was extended to only white, male property owners. This has been expanded to include virtually everyone… except for convicted felons. Felons, in my universe, have forfitted their right to vote by clear violations of the law.

bkcunningham's avatar

@iamthemob I’m happy that it is left up to the individual states. I believe in states’ rights. As I believe we both pointed out previously, it varies in the US from state-to-state and by offense, as well, within the states.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
meiosis's avatar

@CaptainHarley Why should felons forfeit the right to vote over, say, the right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion?

@bkcunningham No offence taken.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Because freedom of speech and freedom of religion don’t impact the body politic nearly as much as does voting.

The very idea of a pedophile being able to vote for my local mayor, for example, is deeply repugnant to me.

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – What about the results:

In the U.S., around13% of all African American men (1.4 million) are disenfranchised (Fellner & Mauer, 1998). They comprise 36% of the total disenfranchised population even though they only constitute 6% of the general population. It is forecasted that three in ten of the next generation of African American men will lose the right to vote either temporarily or permanently (Fellner & Mauer, 1998). Although comparable figures for Latinos are as yet unavailable, it is likely that a similar pattern will emerge for this minority group. Harvey (1994) refers to the erosion or political disempowerment of minority groups as “racial vote dilution.”

@bkcunningham – For me, this is exactly where the Federal Government has a place in dictating policy. Now, whether it should apply to state elections I’m going to table, but for elections to the federal government (1) this results in an uneven application of the idea of representation across state lines, and (2) these civil rights (and let’s be clear – living in a democracy without the right to vote is to, in essence, not be a citizen) are precisely those that the Federal Government is tasked with protecting.

bkcunningham's avatar

@meiosis in the UK do felons who have left prison forfeit the right to vote or just people who are being held in prison?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

Call it what you like, it’s still people who have committed serious violations of the law.

You wanna vote? Then dont rape or kill somebody. And don’t come before the court claiming that the state somehow violated your “rights.” The whole damned argument from statistics is ridiculous.

bkcunningham's avatar

@iamthemob what is your opinion on people who live in America and just don’t vote.

ruth4532's avatar

i am glad that i live in uk

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – Again, what are the serious crimes that require one be stripped of their political participation? The crimes for which individuals are disenfranchised
can include shoplifting, possession of a small quantity of marijuana, and whitecollar
crimes.

And in terms of safety, the indication is that enfranchising those convicted of felonies actually has a deterrent effect:

Disenfranchisement, however, serves to increase the social distance between
the offender and the community, and reaffirms his/her feelings of alienation and
isolation. This may impede his/her acceptance and respect of the social norms
and rule of law. Disenfranchisement also negatively labels individuals as “second class”
citizens. In a survey of 33 convicted felons in the United States, Uggen and
Manza (2005) found that disenfranchisement was stigmatizing and a sign of social
isolation, even if individuals did not exercise their right to vote in the past.
There is some evidence indicating that voting behavior and criminal behavior
are related. In a longitudinal survey of 1,000 young adults, Uggen and Manza
(2004) found that only around 5% of the voters had been arrested or incarcerated
compared to the non-voters of whom 16% had been arrested and 12% had been
incarcerated. And, among former arrestees, approximately 27% of the non-voters
had been rearrested compared to 12% of the voters. Similar patterns emerged
when examining self-reported crime such that voters reported significantly less
crime than non-voters. Thus, voting appears to be part of a “package of prosocial
behavior.” Further research could illuminate the elements of this “package,” and
explore how they relate to voting behavior. Psychological research could also
identify the mechanisms by which disenfranchisement affects the self-concept
and how this mediates the impact of disenfranchisement policy on future criminal
behavior.

@bkcunningham – Nothing else than that if they want to complain when people they did not vote for enact policy, etc., that they don’t agree with they should do it in the next election if they want me to take any complaint seriously.

bkcunningham's avatar

I have read that some 40 percent of eligible American voters don’t participate in the election process.

iamthemob's avatar

And only about 30% of Americans own a gun. And that’s a right guaranteed in the Constitution.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
iamthemob's avatar

@ruth4532 – Then you haven’t been watching Americans very closely. But people in the UK own guns as well. ;-)

CaptainHarley's avatar

@bkcunningham

The last statistic I read on that ( dated 2008 ) indicated that almost 50% of Americans own a gun.

bkcunningham's avatar

@CaptainHarley that would have been @iamthemob who gave that stat. But anyway, if I’m not mistaken, all of the surveys are Americans who “report” owning a gun. I’d be inclined to think, with no scientific reason or survey to back it up, that the number is higher than 30 percent and maybe higher than 50 percent. The only thing I have to go by is the number of military, collectors, hunters, law enforcement, security personel, etc in the country. I dunno. I might be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – We’re probably looking at a number under half – I would say close to a third according to this and this, and considering that households reporting no guns lived in more densly populated areas.

But the number of people exercising the right to own a gun seems significantly less than those who vote. So why are we bringing up the low percentage of voters?

meiosis's avatar

@bkcunningham Prisoners lose the vote for the duration of their imprisonment, but can vote again once they are released (aside from those released on life licence)

bkcunningham's avatar

@iamthemob a statement you made previously, ”...(2) these civil rights (and let’s be clear – living in a democracy without the right to vote is to, in essence, not be a citizen) are precisely those that the Federal Government is tasked with protecting….” just made me wonder about your thoughts regarding people who can, but don’t vote. (You answered that.) That led me to voice the percent of those people who can but don’t vote. That’s all.

iamthemob's avatar

@bkcunningham – Interestingly though, the vast majority of Americans think that they have a right to vote.

rooeytoo's avatar

The part I find intriguing is that we who are not in jail therefore not directly affected, are arguing whether people who never voted before they went to jail, probably don’t care still if they can or cannot vote, should be afforded the privilege of voting while they are in jail.

Let anyone who is in jail, and has tons of time on their hands to do their legal work or lift weights or whatever, spend their own time fighting for their rights, that is if they want to vote at all.

Fighting battles for people who don’t care enough to fight for themselves is creating a society of victimhood. I watched this happen every day of my life for the last 5 years. People who are extremely capable, doing nothing for themselves because there is always some do gooder willing to do it for them. The idea of helping everyone may be born of good intentions or to assuage guilt, but it often goes askew and has the opposite effect.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
Response moderated (Off-Topic)
iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – Two problems:

(1) you are assuming what the prisoners feel like. That’s problematic. It also ignores the data I cited.

(2) saying “let them do it” sets pretty much every minority group in a position where they shouldn’t count on any support. It also again assumes that they feel like it’d be worth it for them.

We want these people to feel like they’re part of society. Do we really not see the psychological effect of ostracizing them more?

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – you are assuming they want to vote are you not? I am saying they didn’t before so why would they now?

Do you really not see the psychological effect of doing everything for them and reinforcing their feelings of victimhood? One feels more a member of anything when they contribute instead of merely taking.

iamthemob's avatar

@rooeytoo – Not at all. I actually more likely assume that many haven’t voted before (probably most) and don’t really think about “wanting” to vote.

But whether they want to or not – it’s the same with any right – when it’s taken from you, or you’re told that you can’t, it fuels a response – just like many people who don’t want to own a gun might react against being told that they can’t now.

But, this isn’t doing anything for them. I don’t know where you’re getting the impression that they aren’t taking action on their own part, they are indeed a distinct part of the fight when they get out of prison.

The fact that they are not part of this thread or that there may not be a lot of information about what current prisoners say is indicative mostly of the fact that, you know – they’re in jail.

How does, may I ask, fighting for their voting rights even if they’re not reinforcing the feelings of victimhood to a greater degree than looking at them and saying “you can’t vote for your leaders.”

rooeytoo's avatar

@iamthemob – The victimhood is when people say I can’t do it because we don’t have good teachers, or I don’t have a father figure or the system keeps me down or any of the million excuses used. The next sentence is that the government or someone has to fix it for me. Empowerment and dispelling of victimhood syndrome comes from fixing yourself. But first you gottawanna. It is like having an intervention to stop someone from drinking or drugging, or forcing them into rehab, if they don’t want to change their life, it isn’t going to work.

We are drifting off topic and I am tired of the argument. You want to do everything for everyone and I say let everyone do for themselves as the guy in your link did. We will never agree.

meiosis's avatar

@rooeytoo One excellent way of getting prisoners to do things for themselves would be allowing them to engage with the democratic process. If they’re disenfranchised they lose a powerful tool.

iamthemob's avatar

As @meiosis says – this is, in fact, the one area where, in fact, the people cannot do for themselves without people speaking up for them.

What is the use of telling someone to speak for themselves when they have no voice.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Nullo's avatar

And yet prison is about cutting you out of society. It is an exercise in curtailing your rights and freedoms so that you will be reluctant to behave in such a way that would facilitate return.

Prisoners had the right to vote before they were sent to prison, and it obviously didn’t make much difference.

meiosis's avatar

@Nullo What is so special about the right to vote that it should also be curtailed when in prison, over and above other rights which we still grant prisoners? Why not punish them by removing their right to freedom of religion, for example. After all, they had their chance to go to church/mosque/synagogue/temple before they were sent to prison, and it obviously didn’t make much difference.

Nullo's avatar

@meiosis It’s not that it’s especially special, it’s that prison is about cutting you out of society, as I said above. That would not impact rights respecting your person, which, AFAIK, follow a person to jail – prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment come to mind; additionally, once you’re in, you get a different set of rights guaranteeing your personal care and well-being from the state. You might think of a person’s faith as a social activity, but the religious don’t.

“Prisoners…difference” is an observation to counter the disenfranchisement yammering, separate from my argument.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther