Prisoners are as affected by government decisions as anyone else, and yet many of them are denied a vote. In fact it would have been all of them, if the previous government had had its way – but a successful High Court challenge restored the vote to those with fewer than three years to release, ie those who would be free people within the term of the next government.
But there’s no sensible reason for denying any of them suffrage, other than spite – the punishment of imprisonment is the loss of a person’s freedom, not the loss of their basic human rights – which include food, water, shelter, and a say in the people who will rule over them. If our aim is rehabilitation – which, if we’re interested in reducing crime, it bloody well should be – it’s entirely counter productive, in fact, to separate prisoners from all sense of responsibility towards or connection with the wider community.
People don’t stop being Australian citizens just because they’re serving a sentence for a serious crime. They shouldn’t just be allowed to vote – they should, like the rest of us, be required to vote.
Of course, since prisoners have by definition offended against the community in some way, it’s easy for the mob, whipped up by the shameless, to feel that it’s their role to offend against the prisoners in return, in any way possible. They want the vote? THEY MUST NOT HAVE IT! They want to learn a trade? THEY MUST BE DENIED ANY ASSISTANCE! If they want it, WE SHALL DENY IT. Because that’s how good people react to bad people making requests.
And then we’ll complain when prisoners don’t rehabilitate and, out of realistic options, turn back to crime…
The Greens in Tasmania have proposed the entirely reasonable situation where all adults of sound mind in the state can vote – and naturally, the Daily Telegraph has used the opportunity to call it the “Greens’ bid to give Martin Bryant vote” and spend an article inferring that the Greens LUV MASS MURDERERS AND WANT TO HAVE THEIR BABIES. Also, the Greens hate victims of crime and want them and their families to suffer.
That’s the quality of public debate in our biggest city’s main tabloid.
Good on the Greens for standing up for principle, even the basic rights of the most loathed people in society, even though it gives the baying corporate media an easy target. THAT is a party that deserves support.
ELSEWHERE: Dave at Pure Poison responds to this same article, “When the world is nothing but extremes”.