How should a convicted prisoner spend his/her time in prison? We provide a cell, a bed: food: medical access etc. when a prisoner is sentenced what should be taken away? Should recreation be provided: education: access to a library: TV etc. Is it right to lock someone up for say 5 years and release them as they were when they came in e.g. unable to read and write in some cases: unable to do the most menial jobs because of a total lack of training in others. It might sound tough to deny them such things but does it work? Prison is there for two reasons: to punish and to rehabilitate: we do plenty of the former and very little of the latter if we are serious about cutting crime and prison numbers this has got to change. When someone is released he/she should be as ready as is possible to reintegrate in to society in a normal seamless way: it is important therefore that the prisoner feels that they have a stake in that society: that is why IMO they should be allowed to vote while in prison.
A huge number of prisoners are watching with interest to see if they will be allowed to vote at the next election: many of them will not be doing so out of any great desire to play their part in democracy: perhaps that will come later. Right now they are waiting to see if Britain will break the law by disenfranchising them: by law according to a European ruling they must be allowed to vote and can sue if denied that right: some no doubt will be hoping to sue rather than vote. Will Britain break the law and tell our own law breakers in jail that they will not be allowed to vote? A delicious irony: acting tough and ignoring European law has brought us to this embarrassing juncture: hell mend them. Prison reform is long overdue and voting rights for prisoners is part of that reform it has existed in more enlightened Europe for years and it’s time we caught up.
Sticking to matters of a legal nature: I argued with quite a lot of people about the release of the Libyan Mr. Megrahi I supported his release and was attacked for doing so. The usual saloon bar tough guys wanted him to rot in jail and dusted down the old nonsense about “life meaning life” and “no release under any circumstances” “let him rot and die in jail” blood curdling stuff which gets worse as mor drink is consumed. Yesterday we caught a glimpse of the reality of that policy from the USA our barbaric special friends across the pond. Deaf, wheelchair bound: nearly blind, with dementia and also mentally ill 94 year old Viva Leroy Nash died while waiting to be executed on Death Row: all in he spent 53 years in prison. This is the reality of vengeance not punishment or rehabilitation: if people want this kind of thing then they should study it close up and understand what it truly means. A 94 year old who is barely alive and knows nothing about his whereabouts or what is happening to him waits to die in some hellish gas chamber or gallows in the richest most powerful country in the history of the planet: support this if you must celebrate it if you think fit but IMO it reminds us that we are not that much further on from our cavemen ancestors.