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2 March, 2004

Coalition calls for prisoners to be given the vote

A coalition of senior cross party politicians, church leaders, ex-offenders and prison reformers is today calling for sentenced prisoners to be given the vote.

The Barred from Voting Campaign, which launched this morning, wants a review of the 134 year old law 'that denies sentenced prisoners any voting rights. The ban dates back to the Forfeiture Act of 1840, and has its roots in a notion of punishment by withdrawing citizenship rights.

The Campaign believes the ban is not justifiable in today’s society. It claims that denying the vote to prisoners is not an effective deterrent and does not protect public safety. Moreover, the Campaign argues that encouraging prisoners to vote would in fact ‘encourage them to become responsible, law-abiding citizens’.

‘Ex-offenders and ex-prisoners should be active responsible citizens,’ said Conservative MP Peter Bottomley. ‘Voting in prison can be a useful first step to engaging in society.’

Sir David Ramsbotham, former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, agrees: ‘Denying prisoners their citizen’s rights is no way to help them to live useful and law-abiding lives.’

As well as the moral aspect of the ban, campaigners claim that it breaches Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 25 o the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which maintain the right to vote as an inalienable human right. Share

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