Suffrage for prisoners; News Ltd’s Anti-Green Smear Campaign 2010 gets underway

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”.

Advertisements

39 responses to “Suffrage for prisoners; News Ltd’s Anti-Green Smear Campaign 2010 gets underway

  1. Northern Exposure

    Now if they could just pull their heads out of eachothers arses long enough to promote some fiscal and job saving policies they’d be fucking shoe ins.

    When I say promote, I mean promote, not create, most of their policies will make jobs, it’s just they never seem to want to, like, win votes.

  2. rehabilitation? You’re such a soft leftie. These people need locking up!

  3. Northern Exposure

    Yes! Re-lock them up, after we have done locking them up! Everyone deserves life sentences for breaking ANY law!

  4. Cue SB or similar:

    Aaaaaaagh, Rarrrragghh, child killers, aggghhhh, arrarrrrahhaagh.

    Oh, and lower castes and those who choose to join them have no rights whatsoever. Ever.

    It’s the order of things. If you hadn’t been anti-social in your conduct of your life then you wouldn’t find yourself in this situation.

    Oh, and also, crooks in jail don’t give a rodent’s puckering sphincter (that’s for SB’s enjoyment) about which of the mono-parties rule us.

    Noice work Rupert.

  5. Ridiculous. The Greens just want to increase their vote, and see prisoners as a captive (so to speak) audience for their softly-softly policies on crime.

  6. What “softly-softly” policies on crime? Do you mean policies actually aimed at reducing crime rather than making it worse, like the major parties’ do?

  7. Aside from legalising or de-criminalising drugs, which is a discussion I’m open to having, the Greens are full of exactly the sort of crime-is-everybody’s-fault nonsense that started in the sixties and let the ferals get out of control.

    Given that a Greens government would allow more people to sit on their asses all day (whether through laziness or their wrecking of the economy) and would release more deadshits into the community, I can’t see how they would work out for the better.

    Not that what we have is great. Labor have eviscerated policing and dropped houso trash into middle and working class neighbourhoods, Howard took away the one effective means of self defence, and it’s time for some serious no-nonsense sentencing and policing of violent, feral deadshits.

  8. “the Greens are full of exactly the sort of crime-is-everybody’s-fault nonsense that started in the sixties and let the ferals get out of control.”

    Bullshit. Cite a specific policy (with link) that you mean.

    “Given that a Greens government would allow more people to sit on their asses all day (whether through laziness or their wrecking of the economy) and would release more deadshits into the community, I can’t see how they would work out for the better.”

    Bullshit.

    “and it’s time for some serious no-nonsense sentencing and policing of violent, feral deadshits.”

    That results in a tenth of the population in jail and crime rates spiralling out of control. See the US.

  9. Howard took away the one effective means of self defence

    Shabadoo at 12:02 pm

    Please tell me you’re not talking about semi-automatic guns??

    Cheers

  10. Statement 5: http://greens.org.au/node/782

    “equality before the law can only be achieved when there is recognition of the way in which cultural, social and economic issues structure choices and influence decisions.”

    In other words, crime is society’s fault, not the criminal’s. It is not hard to break the code. (And how does Green desire for “equality before the law” square with their belief in race-based sentencing decisions?)

    Greens are not grown-ups, they are philosophically anti-growth, and they cannot manage their way out of a paper bag (as Peter Garrett showed us recently).

    As far as the US is concerned, go to New York sometimes. Check out the cops on the beat. See how much safer you feel there then in Melbourne or Sydney on a Saturday night. Thank Rudy Giuliani and Zero Tolerance/Broken Windows policing.

    America’s inordinately high jail population is largely due to non-violent drug offenses, which as I’ve stated I’d be open to liberalising.

  11. “equality before the law can only be achieved when there is recognition of the way in which cultural, social and economic issues structure choices and influence decisions.”

    Are you saying those things are irrelevant and have no effect that’s worth considering?

    “In other words, crime is society’s fault, not the criminal’s.”

    It’s hardly an either-or. The criminal is always responsible; in many cases, so is society, but in different ways.

    ” It is not hard to break the code. (And how does Green desire for “equality before the law” square with their belief in race-based sentencing decisions?)”

    “Break the code” – you mean “apply a spin that matches my prejudices”. And they don’t believe in race-based sentencing decisions.

    “Greens are not grown-ups, they are philosophically anti-growth, and they cannot manage their way out of a paper bag (as Peter Garrett showed us recently).”

    Says you.

    “As far as the US is concerned, go to New York sometimes. Check out the cops on the beat. See how much safer you feel there then in Melbourne or Sydney on a Saturday night. Thank Rudy Giuliani and Zero Tolerance/Broken Windows policing.”

    I wouldn’t feel safe in the US at all. Guns everywhere, and they’ve developed a system to ensure that minor criminals all become serious violent offenders.

    “America’s inordinately high jail population is largely due to non-violent drug offenses, which as I’ve stated I’d be open to liberalising.”

    And stupid lock-em-up policies like the three strikes rule.

  12. In other words, crime is society’s fault, not the criminal’s.

    How on earth do you get your inference from that policy outcome?

    That is referring to punitive idiocies such as imprisoning people for fine default without actually addressing any underlying causative factors. If people can’t pay their fines because they are poor, what social good comes imprisoning them? None.

  13. Returned Man

    Wow, Jeremy. Shab’s really on fire today – so drug-related defences are the reason for the high US prison population? Who’da thought? Looks like he’s got the argument all wrapped up – seems like you’re wrong with regards to the Greens, then!!1!!11 *chuckle chuckle*

  14. Shabadoo – more poverty, more crime thus society (the state of) is at least a contributing factor.

    “Greens are not grown-ups,”

    Coming from you who claims that gamers are childish yet you enjoy the odd game of Wii Tennis (a game for kid’s) I don’t think you’re in a very good position to judge who is or isn’t a ‘grown-up’

    “Thank Rudy Giuliani and Zero Tolerance/Broken Windows policing.”

    He shifted the crime to New Jersey, when Howard was proposing zero tolerance Guliani’s man advised him that it DOESN’T WORK, it just shifts crime from one place to another.

    “(as Peter Garrett showed us recently).”

    He’s not a Green though is he, regardless of what he says his actions speak for themselves (Gunns, Uranium mining)

  15. What is actually socially positive in this policy? As far as I can see it offers nothing of value at all.

  16. “What is actually socially positive in this policy? As far as I can see it offers nothing of value at all.”

    Other than being just and fair and compatible with being a genuine democracy?

  17. Northern Exposure

    Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, because they are bad motherfuckers who have already said they don’t want to be apart of our society. So fuck them off.

  18. “But there’s no sensible reason for denying any of them suffrage, other than spite”

    theres a very sensible reason.

    bob brown:
    “This is Government self-interest. They simply want to disenfranchise 10000 anti-government voters”

    a stroke of the pen, and 10000 anti-liberal voters are gone

  19. “Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, because they are bad motherfuckers who have already said they don’t want to be apart of our society.”

    That doesn’t actually follow.

  20. “Murderers, rapists, drug dealers, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, because they are bad motherfuckers who have already said they don’t want to be apart of our society. So fuck them off.”

    Beautifully fucking said. You are born with all the priveledges of a citizen – it is up to you to demonstrate that you are not capable of abiding by societies laws and therefore lose them. As for society being a causal factor in crime – well, society let me own and drive a car, it also lets me drink alcohol, but if I do both at the same time is it societies fault? No it’s my own fucking fault. Criminals always have the benefit of the doubt – and then they go and commit a crime. Not very clever.

  21. “a stroke of the pen, and 10000 anti-liberal voters are gone”

    Does that mean that criminals are pro-all other parties??? Says a lot about the support base of the other parties if true.

  22. “Beautifully fucking said. You are born with all the priveledges of a citizen – it is up to you to demonstrate that you are not capable of abiding by societies laws and therefore lose them.”

    Stupidly said – since when does being imprisoned equal losing all your basic human rights? There’s one right you lose being imprisoned – your freedom. The rest doesn’t automatically follow.

    “Criminals always have the benefit of the doubt – and then they go and commit a crime. Not very clever.”

    And yet, there are plenty of causes of crime (lack of facilities for mental health, poverty etc) that we could address, but don’t. We’d rather spend that money on prisons.

    “Does that mean that criminals are pro-all other parties??? Says a lot about the support base of the other parties if true.”

    Says a lot about the sort of politicians who would disenfranchise people just because they think they’re less likely to vote for them.

  23. “citizen”

    If they aren’t citizens we deport them when their sentence is served, if they are citizens then they get the right to vote (IMO)

  24. “If they aren’t citizens we deport them when their sentence is served”

    Different punishments for the same offence?

    When their sentence is served, haven’t they paid their debt?

  25. “When their sentence is served, haven’t they paid their debt?”

    Sorry, fair point, I wasn’t saying this is the right thing to do I was trying to clumsily point out that prisoners are still citizens (except the ones that aren’t). Though I could say that it could be seen as part of the punishment, often people commit the same offence and get different punishments anyway due to mitigating circumstances etc.

  26. “Stupidly said – since when does being imprisoned equal losing all your basic human rights? There’s one right you lose being imprisoned – your freedom. The rest doesn’t automatically follow.”

    How hard is it to abide by the law? How hard is it not to infringe on someone elses rights? And by the way, you aren’t losing all your basic human rights – just the ones that allow you to have a say in how society is run. Since if you are in jail you pissed all over those anyway, why should you be able to have a say in how they should run?

    I acknowledge your claims on mental health facilites – that is a real and valuable area where we should be putting funds into. And I get pissed off that political parties of all persuasions are not addressing this. But I came from a poverty background – including having no food for the table multiple times when I was growing up – and I managed to never commit a crime. Why? Because my parents, poor as they were, never condoned theft. Or any other breaking of the law. I don’t have much sympathy for those who have….sacrifice is very relative these days.

  27. Voting isn’t a right its a responsibility. (In Australia anyway.) Its an obligation we have to society. Why should prisoners be exempt from this obligation? If they are in prison for failing in other obligations toward society how is giving them the opportunity to avoid another obligation toward society gonna achieve anything positive?

    If anything its encouraging recidivism.

    Then again I suspect some people like the thought of recidivism. The more targets to whip up hate the better.

  28. Suffrage is a right, jules. It is up to eligible individuals to exercise their right, but being able to have a say in who governs the State is indeed a human a right.

  29. “How hard is it to abide by the law? How hard is it not to infringe on someone elses rights?”

    For many of us, not very. For others, quite difficult, depending on the circumstances. It’s difficult for a heroin addict not to commit theft to support their habit, for example.

    ” And by the way, you aren’t losing all your basic human rights – just the ones that allow you to have a say in how society is run.”

    Why is that part of the punishment? The punishment is loss of freedom. People who’ve committed other crimes but not been sent to jail are permitted to vote.

    “Since if you are in jail you pissed all over those anyway, why should you be able to have a say in how they should run?”

    Because you’re affected by them. Because voting isn’t something the state benevolently grants you, it’s something inherent to living in a country, and it’s a vital part of the laws that govern us having legitimacy. If you expect criminals to learn to respect laws, then ensuring that they have no say in those laws undermines that significantly.

    “I acknowledge your claims on mental health facilites – that is a real and valuable area where we should be putting funds into. And I get pissed off that political parties of all persuasions are not addressing this.”

    I’m glad we agree. The reduction of such facilities under Kennett was a false economy – it’s cost us police time, court time, legal aid time, and the immediate cost of injuries and damaged property.

    “But I came from a poverty background – including having no food for the table multiple times when I was growing up – and I managed to never commit a crime. Why? Because my parents, poor as they were, never condoned theft. Or any other breaking of the law.”

    Well, if that’s why, then you should have some sympathy for criminals whose parents didn’t teach them such values.

  30. “drug dealers, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, because they are bad motherfuckers who have already said they don’t want to be apart of our society. So fuck them off.”

    Pharmacists and brewers beware!

  31. “Pharmacists and brewers beware!”

    You forgot tobacconists.

  32. “Does that mean that criminals are pro-all other parties??? Says a lot about the support base of the other parties if true.”

    Bob Brown did the maths, the legislation would disqualify around 1 in 500 voters.

    the coalition looked at the voting demographics of prisoners. they saw the large majority don’t vote for them… in marginal electorates, it would alter the results in their favour.

    the whole discussion about basic rights is just a distraction. the legislation was politically motivated, nothing else. of course prisoners should be allowed to vote, its not even worth wasting time to talk about

  33. Confessions I know it seems (and is) obvious that suffrage is a basic human right, but there is more to it than that. In Australia we are obligated to vote. Its compulsory.

    But…

    Suffrage isn’t an inalienable human right. It doesn’t flow from being born the way a right to food, shelter, safety and all the rest do.

    It follows on as a consequence of other rights, the inalienable ones expressed in the US Declaration of Independence. (It doesn’t flow from the DoI, but that is a document that expresses the concept well.)

    Suffrage only becomes a right when there is a government that puts restrictions on people’s actions – in a situation where that government works to its citizens benefit that process usually follows whats known as “the rule of law”.

    (IE When you are born you don’t automatically have a right to suffrage. That only comes if you are a member of a state with a government implemented … “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” (- from the US DoI) )

    OK having said all that…

    In reference to rights and responsibilities…

    In a country like Australia, where we not only vote, we have compulsory voting, the compulsory nature of voting isn’t just a recognition of our rights.

    Its a recognition of our responsibilities toward our process of government. We are obliged to take part in it to a minimum level (voting in all elections) because thats the minimum we can do to fulfill our responsibilities toward our system of government, and as a result to our fellow citizens.

    In a society, which is a human construct, rights and responsibilities toward each other are sposed to be balanced, and although it isn’t always the case, the dynamic at play is one that tries to find a balance between rights and responsibilities.

    The idea of rights and responsibilities can’t be separated. The are mutually dependent.

    Thats what drives the argument that prisoners don’t deserve the vote btw. The idea that they lose their rights because they have failed in their responsibilities.

    But its a flawed argument because at the most basic level the relationship between rights and responsibilities is unable to be separated. I doubt you could argue that prisoners no longer have a responsibility toward society. Thats the basis of their punishment after all.

    So removing those rights that are the flip side of their responsibilities is stupid.

    (I’m not disagreeing with the idea that suffrage is a human right, but as long as the focus is on it only being a human right, not a responsibility or an obligation to the health of your society, then this argument will always suit those who want to “punish” people.)

  34. I’m not sure. Thieves, yes, deifnetley should still have the vote. Drug dealers? Probably. Rapists? Pushing it there. Intentional murderers have tooken someone else’s right to vote (amongsy the others), so they really don’t deserve it. But then again, human rights may still extend to humans who are utter dicks, but, what do I know…

  35. “But then again, human rights may still extend to humans who are utter dicks, but, what do I know…”

    I reckon they do. But thats the thing with inalienable human rights. Its not whether they exist or not, cos they do by definition, its whether the state recognises them that ultimately decides how they are implemented. Or if they are.

    Your and my “inalienable human rights” don’t come from the state or any other authority. They come from my mum when she gave birth to me … or from life when I started experiencing it (whatever that means – I make no claims about the conception v birth argument.) Essentially they are a fundamental part of basic human dignity.

    The right to vote isn’t quite on that level, IMO.

    Its not granted by life or anything, but from the authority of the state, and in a democracy thats sposed to reflect the people’s will, and usually does to some extent. Whether you agree or not with “the people’s will” is another issue.

    I guess it comes down to the whole thought of rehabilitation … not all murders are the same, although they do have the same consequence for the victim. But some are cold blooded and brutal, some occur in the heat of passion, when people lose control of themselves. Thats not to make the loss of life any less, cos it isn’t.

    But some murders may be able to be rehabilitated. I have been involved with a convicted murder in various community things over the years. Well thats the rumour/history, tho I have never asked him about the details.

    Unless he’s a unknown serial killer or something – and quite frankly for all I know you could be too, from what I have seen he is rehabilitated. Thats all I’m gonna say about it tho.

    People in prison are already being punished, they have no freedom. They are locked up. In prison. If we want them to rehabilitate it seems obvious that giving them a stake in society will at least mitigate the “us and them” factor. They are still a part of society, but they are a part we have locked up.

    Ultimately its up to us to decide how far we want to take “their” punishment/denial of rights. You know, if a death penalty referendum ever came along, I’d be very uncomfortable with the idea of prisoners not being able to vote on that. (Tho I’m sure it wouldn’t be retroactive.)

    I think in the long run it’d be better if all prisoners had the vote, in the context of some program that got them involved with the whole idea of civic society.

    But thats in an ideal world obviously.

    Unfortunately in this one the situation is closer to Ghost’s of the Civil Dead.

  36. jules: just seen your comment. I agree suffrage isn’t an inalienable human right in the sense that food etc are. However we do live in a society where people are elected to make laws to ensure our liberty, safety, security and so on. And in that context suffrage is very much a human right.

    And just on a pedant point (sorreee!!!!), we are not compelled to vote. We are compelled to turn up at a polling centre and have our name crossed off a list. What we do after that is our business, including scrawling F- You across the ballott paper. 😛

  37. Pingback: 400,000 is a lot of voters to disenfranchise « An Onymous Lefty

  38. Jules-I think you have a point. There are many different ways a murder could’ve happened. If the killer in question seriously shows no signs of remorse, or is highly doubtful that he/she is genuinely remorseful (that last one may be problematic), then they should not get a vote.

  39. Confessions, yeah I agree, it is a human right, my main point was in reference to what you say about the structure or dynamics of our society. For all its flaws our system of democracy in Australia seems to be as good as any on the planet at the moment – that death penalty thing the senate did for example.

    And so I guess it comes down to us as a society … obviously I spose that is what this whole discussion is about. At the moment there seems to be a presumption against it – to use a legal term, in our society. (In the same way there’s a presumption against bail in some circumstances.)

    I think there should probably be one for it (prisoners having suffrage).

    Before this thread I would have said it should always be the case, but I can also see Damian’s point. I dunno about murderers specifically, but I wonder if there are some cases where people have forfeited their right to vote, and their responsibility … maybe you can’t trust it.

    If so it would probably need to be the sort of thing that had to be … I dunno legislated for specific cases, or maybe the prosecution has to apply for it as an extra sanction, and that application then has to be subject to harsh or really stringent judicial review.

    Thats a good point about the voting too.

    Mind you if you don’t actually enroll to vote the electoral commission can’t track you anyway, so you are only compelled to vote if you enroll to vote.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s