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Cormac Behan

3 Political change, penal continuity and prisoner enfranchisement Introduction This chapter examines prisoner enfranchisement in the Republic of Ireland. As with many of the jurisdictions considered in Chapter 2, the issue was historically, socially and politically charged, with the debates and outcomes reflecting local characteristics. The chapter begins with an outline of prisoners’ involvement in politics pre-independence, and later in that part of Ireland that achieved independence. Although prisoners were not allowed to vote for much of Irish history, this

in Citizen convicts
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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.

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Cormac Behan

from the franchise. 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. 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

in Citizen convicts
Cormac Behan

2 Prisoners and the politics of enfranchisement Introduction Prisoner enfranchisement remains one of the few contested electoral issues in twenty-first-century democracies. This chapter examines the politics of, and international jurisprudence on, prisoner enfranchisement. It considers jurisdictions where it has become a matter of legal quarrel and political debate. As outlined in the last chapter, the debate on prisoner enfranchisement is at the intersection of punishment and representative government, encompassing issues such as the purpose(s) of imprisonment

in Citizen convicts
Cormac Behan

objectives of imprisonment, the desire for penal reform, the complexities of citizenship and what restrictions, if any, there should be on participation in a democratic polity. This chapter will consider the cases for and against prisoner enfranchisement. It begins by examining the justification for denying prisoners the vote. It then considers the arguments in favour of allowing prisoners access to the franchise and concludes by making the case in favour of prisoner enfranchisement, arguing that it has both individual and community benefits. The case for prisoner

in Citizen convicts
Cormac Behan

pro-social outlook, moving away from a life of crime. Prisoner enfranchisement remains one of the few contested electoral issues in twenty-first century democracies. The survey of international jurisprudence, examined in Chapter 2, considered the encounter between judicial authority and executive and parliamentary power, highlighting different judicial cultures. In some jurisdictions, the judiciary were keen 176 Citizen convicts to allow legislators to determine the limits of citizenship. In others, the courts were unwilling to allow the elected to determine the

in Citizen convicts
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
Cormac Behan

Unit prisoners surveyed having voted previously, 51 per cent of Shelton Abbey prisoners having voted previously, and Arbour Hill, possibly because of the older and better educated population, having the highest level of prior voting at 57 per cent. Despite the low level of turnout in the election, an overwhelming majority believed in prisoner enfranchisement. Even if it was not 104 Citizen convicts utilised, there was a belief among prisoners that they have a right to vote: 91 per cent believed all prisoners should have the right to vote, 6 per cent believed only

in Citizen convicts