Home

TheSinner.net

Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

This message board is for discussing anything in any way remotely connected with St Andrews, the University or just anything you want. Welcome!

Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby macgamer on Thu Nov 04, 2010 9:06 pm

Brillo gives a grilling to the axe-murder who is advocating the rights of suffrage to serving prisoners.


Personally I think that committing an offence which results in a prison sentence is one which is serious enough to warrant the exclusion of the offender from society. Suffrage is a civil right, not a human right, it is given to citizens of a country or state, rather than the whole humanity.

Sinner thoughts?
"Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision."
- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908
macgamer
User avatar
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Thu Nov 18, 2004 5:08 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby wild_quinine on Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:32 am

macgamer wrote:Personally I think that committing an offence which results in a prison sentence is one which is serious enough to warrant the exclusion of the offender from society. Suffrage is a civil right, not a human right, it is given to citizens of a country or state, rather than the whole humanity.

Sinner thoughts?


I strongly tend to the view that prisoners should be given the vote. Lots of reasons why:

Laws are introduced as part of the political process, and bad laws put people in jail.

Prison conditions are directly affected by the political situation of a country.

If you start turning citizenship off at the push of a button then you have inserted a fairly big chunk of the authoritarian wedge. What next? No vote for asbos? No vote if you're on welfare? No vote if you're a dissident?

And probably a lot more reasons besides.

The argument that 'well, we suspend prisoners rights by putting them in jail' is misleading. We supposedly do that for the good of society, whether by rehabilitation or safeguarding the public. But the good of society is never served by suspending the democratic process. The very minute you start arguing that some set of undesireables shouldn't be allowed to vote, then you have become more of a danger to democracy than they are.

If I were going to be an authoritarian, the first set of people I would take the vote from would be those who demonstrably fail to understand the principles of democracy. After that, those who understand them too well.
wild_quinine
User avatar
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 11:57 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby LonelyPilgrim on Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:30 am

Always a tough call, but I come down on the not-letting-them-vote side of things. What I get upset about are US states which do not permit ex-felons to vote, ie. the voting right is suspended even after freedom is returned. But we've (or at least some states) been doing that for over 200 years and that policy at least hasn't yet destroyed our democracy.
Man is free; yet we must not suppose that he is at liberty to do everything he pleases, for he becomes a slave the moment he allows his actions to be ruled by passion. --Giacomo Casanova
LonelyPilgrim
 
Posts: 1266
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 5:49 am
Location: Nevada, USA

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby Haunted on Fri Nov 05, 2010 11:08 am

It's not so black and white. I think prisons are in need of serious investment and reform, and part of this reform could be returning suffrage to some (depending on the crime, rehabilitation and mental state of the individual). I do not think that individuals who are clearly mentally deranged, socio or psychopathic have the capacity to vote.
Genesis 19:4-8
Haunted
User avatar
 
Posts: 3171
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 2:05 am

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby wild_quinine on Fri Nov 05, 2010 12:06 pm

Haunted wrote:I do not think that individuals who are clearly mentally deranged, socio or psychopathic have the capacity to vote.


Cool beans. And thanks to our foolproof understanding of who 'has the capacity to vote', it'll be pretty easy to stop religious nutters, purveyors of the kind of obscenity that tends to deprave and corrupt, and members of dangerosly extremist political parties from voting.

Let's start with Jews, gays, and socialists. We'll have this country cleared up in no time.

Another goose-step towards total democracy.
wild_quinine
User avatar
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 11:57 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby Haunted on Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:48 pm

wild_quinine wrote:Another goose-step towards total democracy.

I'm not sure I follow. Do you not think mental illnesses/conditions exist?
Genesis 19:4-8
Haunted
User avatar
 
Posts: 3171
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 2:05 am

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby wild_quinine on Fri Nov 05, 2010 2:55 pm

Haunted wrote:I'm not sure I follow. Do you not think mental illnesses/conditions exist?


Yes, I think we can agree that some people are mentally ill, although given the subjectivity of diagnoses, there will always be a very real question as to which people, let alone what that means for their right to partipicate in the democratic process.
wild_quinine
User avatar
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 11:57 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:16 pm

Haunted wrote:
wild_quinine wrote:Another goose-step towards total democracy.

I'm not sure I follow. Do you not think mental illnesses/conditions exist?

Yes. There's a list of people with the condition kept somewhere... I believe it's the Conservative Party members list.

The point that WQ is (partially) making is that it all depends upon how you define mental illness. Sanity isn't a binary state. If the executive can change the law determining how sanity is defined, we're on a slippery slope with the word "totalitarian" carved into its side.

If the government claims that homosexuality is a mental illness (and there are many non-secular people who hold that view), we can deprive homosexuals of their right to vote. Or the other side of the (religious) coin... Islamic fundamentalists who embrace violence-for-an-Islamist-State, are they sane? Should they have the vote? Whilst we're taking the vote away from them, let's do the same for BNP supporters, because they're clearly doolally aren't they?

Depression. Being chased by your Black Dog? This will cheer you up... you've lost your right to vote. MPD schizophrenics, you've lost your right to vote as we can't be sure which of your personalities is "in residence" when you enter the polling booth.

Mostly, all of the above was tongue-in-cheek, however it isn't unreasonable to question the validity of suffrage on the grounds of sanity.

My own view is that (in the current system) an individual's vote is pretty meaningless - and I don't care if prisoners can or can't use theirs.
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby Haunted on Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:21 pm

Oh FFS I understand that mental capacity may be difficult to define, that doesn't mean it's impossible or that it's worthless trying.
We can all agree (or can we?) that the archetypal nut who thinks he's Napoleon does not have mental faculty to make an informed choice on the ballot paper. We can argue til the cows come home about where the line is, I'm not interested in doing so, but do not then claim that it doesn't exist and speak some stupid hyperbole about 'cleansing the undesirables' from the system.
Genesis 19:4-8
Haunted
User avatar
 
Posts: 3171
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 2:05 am

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:30 pm

Haunted wrote:the archetypal nut who thinks he's Napoleon does not have mental faculty to make an informed choice on the ballot paper.

Someone who believed themself to be Napolean wouldn't see the need to vote. What with them being an emperor, and all. ^.^

If you draw a line in the sand between sane and insane, who gets to decide where that line should be? If it is the government, it is open to abuse. It is much safer to not have a line drawn and tremble at the might of their votes in a FPTP system.

The lunatics might actually end up running the asylum. Fun times.

Explore the worst-case-scenario for these 2 options:-
1) Everyone has the vote. Suffrage is (truly) universal.
2) The government decides who can and can't vote.

In option 1, we would have pretty much what we have now... with the children's vote being an interesting election contest. In option 2, we can have a non-democracy. I vote for option 1. If I'm sane enough to be able to vote.
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby jollytiddlywink on Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:26 pm

I'm going to lay out a few premises to work from before I lay out my thoughts.
We are all working, it seems, on the premise that the right to vote is central to a democratic society.
I will add to this the following:
1. Freedom (habius corpus, free speech, freedom of religion, etc) is central to our society.
2. Depriving anyone of part of their rights is undesirable, and might lead to depriving them (or others) of more rights.
3. Any effort to deprive anyone of any rights is therefore to be approached with extreme caution.

That said, I do not think that absolutely everyone should have the right to vote. I do not know exactly what the law currently states about depriving prisoners of voting rights, but I do know that prisoners have, by definition, been deprived of their freedom by process of law. In other words, what they have done is commonly understood to be serious enough to justify depriving them of one of the central pillars of our society for a period of time. This establishes the principle that certain things warrant the removal of certain rights of citizenship.

From this, I think it would be difficult to suggest that *no* crime warrants having the vote removed. Consider, for example, a man convicted of treason. I think it would be perfectly reasonable to deprive that man of his right to vote as well as his freedom. You may well object that I have picked the extreme example. Indeed I have, but I think it establishes a baseline to work from. I agree with the objections that drawing the line is a difficult business, but I do no agree that because it would be difficult, it would be better not to draw the line at all. We have, after all, already drawn a line about where, when, and how people may be deprived of their freedom.

We might suggest that what were formerly capital crimes might warrant loss of the vote. Murder and treason, in other words. Some people might care to expand it somewhat to include violent crimes, or perhaps violent crimes with a long sentence (punching someone in a drunken pub fight lets you keep the vote, but raping someone costs you your freedom and your vote).

I feel there is a similar line to be drawn (although this one is more questionable, because it must by definition be drawn by medical experts rather than by judges and juries) in votes for the insane. But here, too, I think that an extreme example might help to set a basis. Never mind someone who thinks himself Napoleon; besides a severe dislike of the Royal Navy and a strong hankering to invade Russia, he might well be able to live a normal life. What about someone who believes themselves to be a brick? Or someone in the farthest stages of a degenerative condition, who can't even remember who they themselves are, who their children are? I do not suggest that they are in any way deserving of losing the right to vote, in the way that a traitor or murder would deserve to lose it, but I think that at some stage, mental incapacity renders the right to vote an irrelevance, and one which someone isn't capable of exercising. I will not say any more on this issue, because I do not know enough about mental health to comment further, beyond suggesting that I can conceive of certain situations where mental health could be a bar to voting.

I hope that I've argued from my basic premises, and that those were both sound and agreeable to everyone. In neither case outlined above does the government decided who gets to vote or not; that is left to juries and medical experts. Given that we already allow juries to deprive people of freedom for crimes, and experts to deprive people of freedom for mental conditions, I think it is an extension of a principle central to our society to, in certain circumstances, expand their powers to cover the vote as well as freedom.
I don't think that opens a 'slippery slope' risk, unless we fear that the current legal system in the UK is in danger of being used to incarcerate anyone who didn't vote Lib/Con at the last election.
jollytiddlywink
 
Posts: 297
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:23 am

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 11:15 pm

jollytiddlywink wrote:I do not know exactly what the law currently states about depriving prisoners of voting rights, but I do know that prisoners have, by definition, been deprived of their freedom by process of law.


The Representation of the People Act 1983 stated that a convicted person cannot vote at any parliamentary or local election whilst in prison.

Interestingly enough, the Representation of the People Act 2000 allows psychiatric hospitals to be used as a registration address.

As mentioned by Jack Straw on this week's Question Time, long term prisoners would not have a residence from which their vote could count for a particular prospective MP. Don't forget, the homeless can't vote.
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby LonelyPilgrim on Sat Nov 06, 2010 1:24 am

Do the insane who would actually care to vote represent a sufficiently numerous constituency that their vote matters in any objective way? I could imagine that, if there were a large asylum in some district, and the inmates were able to vote and were inclined to vote (questionable, since it seems someone mentally ill enough to be locked up probably has other priorities on their mind, like making the snakes go away, or getting the voices to stop, etc, but we'll go with it for now) they might be able to swing an election. But even so, that's one MP... or in the US case, one Representative. So what? Is there an actual need to deprive them of their votes?

[Edited to add: A mechanism exists in the US for someone judged by a court to be mentally incompetent to have their right to vote transferred to another person who can then exercise that vote in the interest of the incompetent person. My mother exercises that right for both of her parents. Well, actually she exercises it for my grandfather. My grandmother consigned to my mother a durable and complete power of attorney, which includes her right to vote, rather than having been ruled incompetent, but it amounts to the same thing in practice - except that my grandmother can vote for herself if she wants to, and usually does by absentee ballot.]

Criminals have their votes taken away as a punishment. A bit odd to our modern day and age when people undervalue the privilege of voting, but once upon a time being able to vote is what marked someone as a citizen, ie. as being fully human. Being in a condition of bondage, whether as a prisoner or as a slave, was to be in a way a non-human, and taking away the vote was part of that.

I really don't think there's a slippery slope here, gentlemen. If there was, our two great democracies would have slid down it long-hence. And I say that as a slippery slope lover.
Man is free; yet we must not suppose that he is at liberty to do everything he pleases, for he becomes a slave the moment he allows his actions to be ruled by passion. --Giacomo Casanova
LonelyPilgrim
 
Posts: 1266
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 5:49 am
Location: Nevada, USA

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:22 am

LonelyPilgrim wrote:Criminals have their votes taken away as a punishment.

Is incarceration a punishment against the criminal, or a protection for their potential victims?

LonelyPilgrim wrote:A bit odd to our modern day and age when people undervalue the privilege of voting, but once upon a time being able to vote is what marked someone as a citizen, ie. as being fully human. Being in a condition of bondage, whether as a prisoner or as a slave, was to be in a way a non-human, and taking away the vote was part of that.

Which time are you referring to? And in which country?

LonelyPilgrim wrote:I really don't think there's a slippery slope here, gentlemen. If there was, our two great democracies would have slid down it long-hence. And I say that as a slippery slope lover.

Our two great democracies? You mean the USA and the UK? o.o


Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby LonelyPilgrim on Sat Nov 06, 2010 8:25 am

You know, RedCelt, I'm a backward barbarian with dial-up, so posting videos, I assume to make a point, doesn't really work on me. Sorry, you'll just have to type it out.

RedCelt69 wrote:Is incarceration a punishment against the criminal, or a protection for their potential victims?


Now or the vague and mysterious Then? Now, that's a good question. Then, it was a punishment. People deemed a threat were executed, not incarcerated, prior to 20th century. So were a lot of people not deemed a threat, but it's fairly safe to assume the latter set contained the former.

Which time are you referring to? And in which country?


Any time post-Enlightenment, which is when the concept of citizenship gained any real meaning. As for where, primarily the UK and America, but France during the various Republics, too, I would assume. Citizenship is tied up with the twin concepts of being able to (indeed, having a duty to) act politically and with recognition as a complete human being. When you take away a person's right to act politically, in a post-Enlightenment world, you deny them full exercise of their humanity. There's some really appalling stuff out of the late 17th - early 18th centuries about why women aren't persons and some equally appalling stuff about African-Americans both before and after the American Civil War here in the US... in both cases used to justify denying those groups the vote - among other rights.

Our two great democracies? You mean the USA and the UK? o.o


That's precisely what I mean, allow me some rhetorical fancy, no? Besides which, the meaning is clear enough. I can only assume your rhetorical question then is a set up to your videos... which I see from just from the first frame of one of them that at least one has something to do with the 2010 midterms here in the US. No doubt you are trying to elicit some acknowledgement that American democracy has it's flaws by beating me over the metaphorical head with some Republican being idiotic... as though your one video, so cunningly inserted into your reply, is going to somehow have more effect on me than the last year of 24/7 news coverage of Republicans saying stupid and frightening things. Frankly, I don't care how disgusted you are by the current state of American politics, your feelings couldn't even be a pale shadow of the disgust I feel toward them, so from now on, instead of using a video, why not just type "TEA PARTY" and get the same effect, okay?
Man is free; yet we must not suppose that he is at liberty to do everything he pleases, for he becomes a slave the moment he allows his actions to be ruled by passion. --Giacomo Casanova
LonelyPilgrim
 
Posts: 1266
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 5:49 am
Location: Nevada, USA

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Sat Nov 06, 2010 4:20 pm

Rhetorical fancy granted. It was late and I was tired; posting a couple of videos seemed a better option then a lengthy list of why the USA and UK (couldn't find a video that delivered the intended message) aren't great examples of democracy. The USA, I'm sure, is already well-established on your radar (although it goes much deeper than the Tea Party). In the UK, the "mother of all parliaments" has had a very troubled history. The modern incarnation isn't exactly great, either. Skipping past the whole House of Lords concept, the current government is a coalition between 2 of the 3 parties that lost the general election. Not happy times.

I'd imagined that a coalition government would consist of 2 parties that disagree with each other, held differing views and commented upon those differences - whilst conceding on certain areas so that the executive could continue to run the country. That isn't what happened. I've yet to hear a LibDem spokesman do anything other than back every Conservative statement made. The 2 parties are, in fact, 1 party. There's differences of opinion, sure, but no more than you would see in 2 wings of the same party. It is heartily sickening to see LibDem figures "hear-hearing" Conservative policies as if they were an exact representation of what they themselves believe. Policies which, only a few months back, they'd have been slamming with as much political voice as they could muster.

A lot of the public got upset about the (mis)use of expenses by their MPs. To me, the lust for power and the abandonment of anything resembling a conscience is much more sickening. Screw what it said in their manifestos, nobody in this country voted for this government. They are operating without a mandate.

Not a model of democracy that should be held as an ideal. To anyone.
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby jollytiddlywink on Mon Nov 08, 2010 12:24 am

Redcelt, yes, nobody in the UK voted for this government in particular, but that doesn't make it undemocratic. Its made up of MPs elected by the people. As the government is more than a sum of its parts, it is in that sense 'unelected' but I'd hesitate to say that nobody voted for it.

And we mustn't hold democracy up as an unalloyed good. There is a lot to be said for it, but it is most certainly a double-edged sword. Both the great ideological enemies of 'democracy' in the 20th century, namely fascism and communism, are both firmly rooted in democratic norms, but in drastically different ways. In short, the concept of 'we, the people' generated a complementary idea of 'they, the non-people.' In Germany, the difference was defined ethnically. In the USSR, it was defined socially, economically and politically. Neither is democratic in the way that most of us recognize the term.

And unfettered democracy is also a bad thing. Democratic votes are not automatically good: witness Prop 8 in California, where a majority of the voters opted to deprive a group of citizens of their rights (and yes, macgamer, marriage is a civil right).
Apologies for this being brief and un-elaborated. It is late and I am le tired.
jollytiddlywink
 
Posts: 297
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:23 am

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby RedCelt69 on Mon Nov 08, 2010 12:39 am

jollytiddlywink wrote:Redcelt, yes, nobody in the UK voted for this government in particular, but that doesn't make it undemocratic. Its made up of MPs elected by the people.

Did people vote for their MPs or did they vote for whichever MP belonged to the party leader they liked most in the "presidential" TV debates? And, when casting their votes, did they base their decision on what the manifestos said they'd do, or did everyone manage to see into the future and base their decision on what the elected government is actually doing? In a representative democracy, where you get to decide (every 4 or 5 years) who will best represent your views... it works even less well when you don't know in advance what those you're voting for will actually do when they're in power.

It is a strange concept of democracy.
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and celt
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed

Red Celt's Blog
RedCelt69
User avatar
 
Posts: 947
Joined: Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:28 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby wild_quinine on Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:59 pm

OK, let's take this debate back to base principles.

Why would you take the vote from prisoners? What on earth makes that a good idea?

Yes, I accept that we take freedom (a human right) from criminals, but there is a reason for this. And yes, the right to vote is 'only' a civil right. But criminals do not lose their civil rights, bang, from the moment of incarceration.

Bear in mind that we do not confiscate lawfully owned property from criminals. You do not lose your citizenship for committing a crime. What is the reason why you would take the vote? Surely it is more, not less, important than property - as a concept, if not to the individual.

I hope there's a better argument out there than 'we don't want bad people to engage in democratic activities'.
wild_quinine
User avatar
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Sun May 10, 2009 11:57 pm

Re: Rights of Suffrage to Prisoners?

Postby jollytiddlywink on Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:30 pm

wild_quinine wrote:OK, let's take this debate back to base principles.

Why would you take the vote from prisoners? What on earth makes that a good idea?


I'd take the vote from certain prisoners, not all. Consider someone convicted of treason (as I said above, an extreme example, but a useful one); they are capable of being a danger to society within prison if they are still allowed to vote. We could posit the same of a citizen convicted of terrorism or attempted terrorism. As well as being a risk to others (and thus locked up), they pose a threat to the continued existence of representative government, partly because they may well advocate a theocracy (or something equally anathema), but largely because their crime was to undertake political action so far outside the accepted moral and legal bounds. I think it either case, because of the nature of the threat posed by such crimes, it warrants both incarceration and loss of suffrage.
I cannot think of any other crimes that present such a clear case for loss of the vote; plenty of abhorrent crimes could be put on the list of unworthiness to vote (I can't think of anything that a serial killer could contribute to anything except a body count), but I will confine myself to arguing as above, namely that terrorists and traitors should lose the vote.

I hope, WQ, that you find this to be more than 'not wanting bad people to vote.'
jollytiddlywink
 
Posts: 297
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 12:23 am

Next

Return to The Sinner's Main Board

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 41 guests

cron