Sarah PembertonDr Sarah Pemberton, Lecturer in Criminology, Faculty of Education, Law & Social Sciences

Currently, we have a prison population of just under 90,000 people, and depending on the nature of the offence or prison the sentence was served in, as many as 74% of prisoners will reoffend. There are many reasons why people reoffend and these figures demonstrate that HMPS is struggling to fulfil their objective of reducing prisoners’ risk of re-offending (but this is another debate). One argument for why people reoffend (there are many more) is because they enter prison having experienced highly dysfunctional, damaged and disenfranchised lives and they return to society, after being in prison -feeling the same

The Howard League for Penal Reform has quite rightly argued that people are sent to prison to take away their liberty, not their citizenship. Voting is both a right and a responsibility. Therefore, if we want prisoners to feel that they have a stake in society and return safely to the community, then the right to vote is a positive way of engaging individuals with the responsibilities of citizenship. Furthermore, those who are sentenced to a non-custodial sentence, i.e. a community sentence are still entitled to vote. This is inconsistent with the current stance of David Cameron et al. that ‘if you commit a crime, you lose your right to vote’ We cannot consider everyone as the same – people commit different types of crimes, for different reasons and so by having a blanket ban on prisoners voting, the European Court for Human Rights finds that unacceptable. It is important to respect prisoner’s differences and work with these differences. One way around this is to consider the right to vote on an individual basis, one which is discretionary; one which considers the type of crime and length of sentence.

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Sarah Pemberton

Sarah Pemberton

Lecturer in Criminology
Sarah Pemberton

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