It bothers me to read in the news today that the federal government is considering removing voting rights for people who are serving a prison sentence.
The basic argument goes along the lines that society has decided that these people are not fit and proper to walk the streets, so why should they have a say in how the country is run. This reasoning bothers me on a number of levels.
Firstly the idea that society has judged these people "unfit" to walk the streets. In some cases such as serial killers who have been given a life with no parole sentence, this may be true, but in the vast majority of cases there is a hope of reform, and a desire to have this individual become part of society again at some point in the future. There is also the concept of paying a debt to society. The entire concept and approch we have to prison and punishment for crime needs some serious consideration which I don't want to go into in this posting.
The legislation currently says that anyone serving a five year or less jail term is eligable to vote. I fully agree with the greens and the democrats that All members of our society should be eligable to cast a vote.
Part of the problem with or culture and our attitudes towards crime and punishment is the alianating of people we deem to be criminal. I think that denying people in prison the right to vote would be as grave an injustice as denying prisoners the right to clothing or to due process. Just because an individual has commited an act that we as a society have determined to be criminal (and some of these acts are quite arbitrary when considered properly) does not deny them their humanity or their rights as a citizen of a democatic nation.
It was interesting to see Pauline Hansen's reaction to her stint behind bars. Before she went in she was well known for her harsh stance on crime and the prison system. On her release, she started on a campaign of prison reform which surprised everyone. I think that maybe every politician should spend 6 months behind bars before they take office, I think that Senator Abetz should start his just in time for the next election.