Citizen convicts

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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