As Parliament debates Paul Quinn’s ill-conceived private members bill on prisoner voting, the UK government is being forced to go in the other direction. The UK bans voting by all convicted prisoners. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the blanket ban on prisoner voting in place in the UK is discriminatory and breaches European human rights conventions.
Now its important to remember that in NZ the law as it stands says that if you are in prison for a conviction of more than three years you can not vote. So the arguments around murderers etc do not apply here. Paul Quinn’s bill would see that cover all prisoners in prison on the day of an election, including those on remand. (Actually the way it was re-drafted as Andrew Geddis has pointed out, the Bill actually gives the vote to anyone who is in prison before the Bill is enacted.)
The arguments being tossed around in the UK are of course similar tho those here. You can listen to a slightly odd interview on Morning Report (today, 8.48am) with the former prisoner who took the case to the European Court. Odd because he leaves the interview part way through to answer the door!
We will be back onto Paul Quinn’s Bill next Wednesday. Apart from the drafting stuff up, the bill is a waste of space. As said here before, It will do nothing to make our communities safer, it will not reduce our appalling imprisonment rate, it creates inequities between those on home detention and in prison, takes in people before they are convicted, and will do nothing to support rehabilitation or reintegration. People convicted of crimes of three years or less will be back in society, and we need to try to help them be part of society again, not exclude them from it.
Last word to Juliet Lyon from the Prison Reform Trust in the UK. She said ” people are sent to prison to lose their liberty not their identity.” That is a challenging notion for some people, but it is one that we need to remember if we want to start to reduce recidivism.