‘Give prisoners the vote’

By Alex Stevenson

Campaigners have stepped up their efforts to give sentenced prisoners the right to vote in this year’s general election.

The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) and Unlock, the national association of reformed offenders, believe the ban on prisoners being allowed to vote is incompatible with modern democracy.

It may even breach the European Convention on Human Rights, they argue today, as the government drags its feet on eventually allowing some sentenced prisoners to vote.

“People are sent to prison to lose their liberty not their identity,” PRT director Juliet Lyon said.

“Prison has an important job to do to prevent the next victim and release people less, not more likely, to offend again.

“Prisoners should be given every opportunity to payback for what they have done, take responsibility for their lives and make plans for effective resettlement and this should include maintaining their right to vote.”

The voting ban on sentenced prisoners is contained in the Representation of the People Act 1983 but is based on the 19th century concept of ‘civic death’.

The campaign for reform has won the support of Paul Tidball, the Prison Governors Association president, who called the ban “out of step in a modern prison service”.

He warned it “runs counter to resettlement work which aims to ensure that prisoners lead a responsible, law-abiding life on release”.

An amendment to the constitutional reform and governance bill, due to enter the Lords this month, is being demanded.