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Prisoners, politics and the vote
Author: Cormac Behan

Prisoner enfranchisement remains one of the few contested electoral issues in twenty first century democracies. It is at the intersection of punishment and representative government. This book is the first comprehensive study of prisoners and the franchise in any jurisdiction. In a democratic polity, the deliberate denial of the right to vote to any section of the population has very serious implications, both symbolic, in terms of devaluing citizenship, and practical, in terms of affecting electoral outcomes. Conversely, the extension of the franchise is similarly emblematic of a political system’s priorities and emphases. The debate about prisoner enfranchisement is significant because it gives us some insights into the objectives of imprisonment, society’s conflicted attitude towards prisoners, the nature of democracy and the concept of citizenship. This book begins by considering the case for and against prisoner enfranchisement and then goes on to examine the jurisprudence in various jurisdictions where it has been a matter of legal and political controversy. Using the Republic of Ireland as a case study, this book analyses the experience of prisoner enfranchisement and locates it in an international context. It argues that the legal position concerning the voting rights of the imprisoned reveals wider historical, political and social influences in the treatment of those confined in penal institutions.

Loïc Wacquant

deregulation and social insecurity, it is imperative that we effect three analytic breaks with the gamut of established approaches to incarceration. First, 9780719079740_C04.qxd 72 22/2/10 15:10 Page 72 Beyond the prison we must decouple crime from punishment, in light of the glaring and persistent disconnect between trends and levels in offences and sanctions both within and across countries. Second, we must recouple social and penal policies, insofar as these two strands of public action were historically fashioned in tandem and are everywhere aimed at the same

in Incarceration and human rights
Cormac Behan

, more needs to be done to achieve this, both within and without the prison. Encouraging prisoners to participate as citizens, with opportunities and meaningful spaces in their community on a daily basis rather than just on election day, offers the potential for lived citizenship. However, this necessitates reframing penal policy, reimagining the role of imprisonment and re-conceptualising enfranchisement, regarding it as not merely enabling prisoners to vote, but rather as part of a process of engaging and empowering citizens. The first part of this book outlined the

in Citizen convicts
Lan Loader

heartlands, with significant variation to be found among US states as well as between England and Wales and Scotland.20 And one can point to the continued professional contestation of neoliberal penal policies and the attendant survival and revival of forms of rehabilitation,21 as well as to penal reform groups whose campaigns continue to monitor and expose the excesses of neoliberal penality and mobilise around alternative programmes such as restorative conferencing or ‘justice reinvestment’. Why does all this matter? Not because it detracts from the persuasive force of

in Incarceration and human rights
Cormac Behan

governing prison voting’, 58 per cent do not allow prisoners to vote. They concluded that it ‘seems that a country’s internal political and civil freedoms are as important in predicting prison enfranchisement as the classification of a country as a democracy’ (Rottinghaus and Baldwin, 2007: 694). While prisoner enfranchisement may be influenced by the state of a country’s democracy, it can also be shaped by its penal policy. However, as we will see in many of the jurisdictions in the next section, judicial rulings, rather than penal policy, democratic representation or

in Citizen convicts
Abstract only
Cormac Behan

examines the Irish experience of prisoner enfranchisement. It begins by considering the involvement of prisoners in politics prior to and post-independence. It explores why, despite the prominence of prisoners and ex-prisoners in the development of the Irish State, the enhancement of prisoners’ rights and penal reform have rarely been considered policy priorities. It concludes that, although politicians were keen to promote their prison past, they were less eager to allow their experience to inform their penal policy. Rather, they were happy to leave prison behind and

in Citizen convicts
David Downes

view is still not self-evident and whether it is embraced or not will in part be determined by the extent to which it can be shown that the death penalty does or does not serve the penal purposes claimed for it.’ Roger Hood, The Death Penalty: A World-Wide Perspective (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 5–6. 10 Tapio Lappi-Seppälä, ‘Trust, welfare, and political culture: explaining differences in national penal policies’, in Michael Tonry (ed.) Crime and Justice, Volume 37 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2008). 11 John Braithwaite, Crime, Shame and Reintegration

in Incarceration and human rights
Thomas Mathiesen

such a call and demand, a new international prison movement may develop, inside and outside our prisons. In due course, it might or would turn the tides. It would give us – our governments, our regional institutions, our global organisations – ten years’ time for hard thinking around the issue of a more civilised and humane penal policy than we have today. Notes 1 Editor’s note: this text was written in November 2008. 2 Helene Oppen Gundhus, ‘“For sikkerhets skyld”: IKT, yrkeskulturer og kunnskapsarbeid i politiet’ (‘“To be on the safe side”: IT, work cultures and

in Incarceration and human rights
Cormac Behan

class citizens. Until prisoners are provided with some form of a ‘voice’ to address issues of concern, little progress will be made. There was a belief that the right to vote confers dignity, humanity and promotes inclusion. Issues raised by interviewees included the social contract, collateral consequences of punishment, civil death and penal policy, often mentioned in the debates on prisoner enfranchisement. Reintegration and maintaining connections with the outside world was Enfranchisement – the prisoner as citizen 129 a prominent theme running through the

in Citizen convicts
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State-enforced agency
Michael Rush

McLanahan observed that ‘the high level of incarceration among unmarried fathers (in the USA)’ was ‘particularly striking’ and that ‘changes in penal policy which occurred after the 1980’s’ had ‘played an important role’ in the lives of fathers (2006:11). The following quote by McLanahan offered a candid analysis of the logic of the PRWORA (1996) and of the eugenic undercurrents of American ‘welfare reforms’: And the plight of poor unmarried fathers was virtually ignored except insofar as they were the target of child-support enforcement. However conditions began to

in Between two worlds of father politics