Site Meter

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No prisoners votes no census!

No prisoners votes no census!

The national population census…

By Billy Little , from insidetime issue March 2011

A citizen’s right to be included in society

As is the case with consecutive British governments, they have little or no regard for the law, and if it doesn’t suit them, they will endeavour to alter it…a wee bit. Like having your cake and eating it! The expectation on 27th March is that the prison population will complete the census form, a legal requirement for all citizens, but, since citizens have the right to vote, does this not cause a dilemma? I mean, the right to vote for prisoners is legally binding, but Eric and Ernie (Cameron and Clegg), in conjunction with an ever-keen media machine, have managed to convince most of the supporting cast to renege on the Hirst ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

For those of you who neither read Paul Sullivan’s PSI Update on coverage of the forthcoming census, nor know of the census, i.e. what it’s for and who can access the information provided, you should ask in your library for further information. Paul Sullivan’s PSI Update (February issue) noted, under the heading of ‘Refusal’, that there is a ‘legal requirement’ to complete the census form. Now, from MY point of view, there are concerns about this sort of thing, particularly under the current state of disenfranchisement (i.e. not being allowed to exercise the right to vote, despite it being a binding legal requirement, by consecutive British governments).

So, what is the census? The census (originally denoting Poll Tax…and many of us know how well that was received by contemporary society) is nothing more than a count up. It’s conducted every 10 years, to count, classify and locate the population of a country, nation, commonwealth or political society. As a principle, the census is a legal requirement of all ‘citizens’ within a specific place; a mass registration of each and every person legally afforded the moniker of ‘citizen’. The legal requirement comes from the Census Act (1920), and, as such, there is this demand for each individual, and/or any person(s) in their care, to divulge a whole range, normally, confidential, information to the state. This information can then be used by any government agency, or any private firm that the government deem ‘appropriate’, to use within their operational remit.

A ‘citizen’, broadly defined, is a person who is legally recognised as a subject, native or from a particular state, commonwealth or political society. It is a person who has the legal protection of their political society, nation or state; someone who has been afforded ‘franchise’ – the right to vote – within that place. Irrespective of status, any person classified as being suitable to complete a legally binding document, such as a National Population Census, should, equally, be afforded the opportunity to enjoy and partake in all of the privileges and expectations bestowed upon a holder of that title.

By the latter point I mean that as prisoners we are still subject to the law, we still pay tax on the goods that are purchased from the prison canteen and the 20% VAT expectation for other goods; just like any other citizen. David Cameron (aka Eric Morecambe) and his sycophantic sidekick Nick Clegg (aka Ernie Wise) really should pay more attention to just how much of a say prisoners have. More importantly, they should listen to what prisoners have to say on matters related to drugs, crime and prisons. It is easy to use emotive, simplistic rhetoric to appease the public or tabloid media. It is not that easy to persuade the prison population to comply with a ‘legal requirement’ when the people in charge are not doing it themselves.

One of the cornerstones of citizenship is having the ability to express political favour, to affect change through the electoral system. Who knows, maybe one day we will live in a society that prevents the media from playing police, judge, jury and executioner on its citizens. A society that treats everyone as equal status, not just those who sit on their high horse! My census form will be in the bin and in pieces…no vote…no recognition…no citizen!

Billy Little is currently resident at HMP Bullingdon

No comments: