Bitching Brew

Friday, October 07, 2005

Re: Prisoners' Rights

This is a response to Rebecca's comment on my post about prisoners' rights below. [I'm still getting the hang of this comment mechanism... I'll consider getting rid of the pop-up aspect. It would allow better conversations!]

All fair points Rebecca. One could argue that the right to vote and the right to a public representative are distinct. But that opens yet another can of worms - separating those rights hasn't been a general principle of democracies. It was common practice in the Eastern bloc, and still is in China and much of the Middle-East. On the other hand, the rights are quite distinct in the cases of children and alien residents.
Let's say some crimes are so grievous that the right to vote has been forfeited. Then how do we decide which crimes? Certainly not all - you don't lose the franchise for a speeding ticket. Then are we just going to take the vote from prisoners en masse, but let all convicted criminals who haven't been sentenced to prison keep it? Where do suspended sentences come into play here? In common-law jurisdictions, there's a lot hanging on the discretion of the judge. Do you think every judge takes the right to vote into account when deciding whether to impose a custodial or suspended sentence? Perhaps they should? My point is that suspending such a fundamental right should never be done lightly or arbitrarily. I think that the burden of proof should lie with those seeking to withdraw a right, rather than those seeking to retain it. In other words, in the absence of a conclusive argument, I prefer to err on the side of liberty.

Regarding conjugal rights, I completely agree. No dispute there. And as for what constituency prisoners would hypothetically vote in, I'm not going to be normative here, though I think 'home constituency' is the more practical option. The question is: legally, are prisoners normally resident at their home or at the prison? (Think of students living away from home) That would be conclusive, I think, without specific legislation to say otherwise.

Thanks for your input - it's always astute and welcome!

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2 Comments:

  • Prisoners in maghaberry had unofficial conjugal rights at one point when they made their sections of the prison no go for the prison officers

    Prison officers have a god awful job, one was killed in Maghaberry by the method of having a broom inserted very far up his rectum and was then left in the corridor until the other officers could come in and retrieve the body. There were other horror stories from that period too. Doesn't extend ones sympathies towards prisoners. More support schemes needed for prison officers I reckon

    By Blogger Rebecca, at Fri Oct 07, 02:00:00 p.m.  

  • On the whole, I have little sympathy for prisoners. I think they should have the vote because I'm a liberal democrat (not capitalised), not because I like them or their opinions. After all, they're probably more disposed to vote for the damnable Sinn Féin than the average person.
    I certainly wouldn't choose to be a prison officer, and I don't envy them their job. Then again, they know the risks when they take the job, like any soldier or police officer. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do our best to protect them and deal with any trauma they suffer.

    By Blogger Martin, at Fri Oct 07, 02:47:00 p.m.  

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