Sunday, 25 November 2012

Playing with Rights: Mixed Up Plans on Prisoners


About prisoners or more about Europe for Tories?
In the past week we've seen two significant policy proposals be published on prisoners and Justice policy. First was the long-awaited 'Rehabilitation Revolution' which was laid out in the Coalition Agreement and seeks to involve independent providers in a payments-by-results system of prisoner rehabilitation, much like the A4e unemployment programme. I only hope this new system is administered better as its has a lot of potential if done right.

The second was the Government publishing the Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny last Thursday as a direct attempt to stave off the wrath of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) whose deadline for states' meaningful response to their ruling was 1600 GMT on Friday. This follows a notice to comply by the ECHR in the Spring as the UK had still yet to give prisoners the right to vote.



Reformed individuals destined to re-offend?
My only interpretation to these actions by the Coalition Government is that they are in complete disarray when it comes to rehabilitation. The Coalition Agreement's Foreward said this would be an opportunity to "recast the relationship between people and the state" (pg. 7), empowering citizens, extending opportunities, bringing people together. Yet all they've done is thrown incentives to the private sector, nothing substantial to prisoners and set about dividing the nation between right and wrong.

What happened to individuals, their rights and their freedoms?

Those on the conservative side of the argument argue that prisoner's have broken the laws of the land, those written and
those accepted as a tacit agreement in civility. For that society and its judicial and political representatives should unite in coming down hard on them, removing liberties and exacting punishment for the betterment of everyone on the outside.


I think what many have forgotten is that by removing the liberties and human rights of those 'inside', they inherently damage their own freedoms on the 'outside'. The tacit agreement in civility is tied up in societally agreed moral standards and the individual acceptence of the rule of law. Punishing someone for breaking this only disconnects them from any claim they had on membership of our society. What it results in is a loss of obligation on their part;  we've just chucked inclusivity in the bin, why shouldn't they do the same?

More importantly, this dent in Universal Suffrage (which the UK apparently achieved in 1928, someone tell Grayling!) has the capacity to lead to a tear in our ratification of

Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 concerning the right to a fair trial.
The right to society's membership need not apply!
We have had and always will have miscarriages of justice which result in people spending lifetimes inside when they should really be enjoying the life of innocence. No judicial system is perfect, they all include too much of one ingredient; humanity. We can't get away from that but we can do our best to protect against it. Procedural law and its inherent rights exist to ensure all statue laws and rights are correctly implemented and entitled to all those who have rights to them.

It is my opinion that the right to vote should constitute as a procedural right, why? Because following a miscarriage of justice, the facing of a long-term prison sentence, an innocent man or woman will have been denied a free and fair due process. I believe their last remaining right has to be that of voting for a candidate who may not only call for a review of their case but also shares their values of human rights and fair trials.

We cannot know who has been wrongly convicted, unsurprisingly, so we should theoretically afford this right to every prisoner as it also serves a strong purpose in reconnecting them into that tacit agreement in civility. Alas, not every battle can be won but I do encourage all MPs and Lords to vote for the most radical and enlightened option that has been laid out,

give it to those serving up to four years.
If we continue to play with people's rights then this revolution will just peter out. Everyone on the outside has the incentive to see reformed offenders but many are too occupied with their own instincts. Everyone on the inside has no incentive to reform and many still fail to recognise the agreements they've lost with society and the rights they've had taken away. 

NOTE: I haven't read Law so if you disagree, happy to discuss facts and opinions :)

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