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Monday, May 16, 2011

Dimbleby’s prison visit is a step in the right direction

Dimbleby’s prison visit is a step in the right direction

By Sarah Foster
Published on Monday 16 May 2011 10:03

David Dimbelby

Furious backlash, outrage, uproar. Just four of the words I’ve seen levelled at the BBC for its decision to film this week’s Question Time in a prison.

What a great idea. Four more words – and this time they are mine.

Whether you like it or not, the UK has until October to reverse an age-old ban on refusing prisoners the vote.

As much as David Cameron might like to put his head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, it is.

So there really is no better time to let David Dimbleby into Wormwood Scrubs and invite up to 10 serving prisoners to join the audience.

Shock horror, they’ll even be allowed to ask a question. But the baying public should be placated a little when they know the offenders won’t be serving time for violent crimes.

I can see why some small-minded people might feel outraged at the idea of treating those in prison like human beings with voices of their own and a part to play in democracy.

But the predicted uproar ahead of Thursday’s programme doesn’t make sense.

People who break the law deserve to be punished and sometimes that means they go to prison.

What hope do we have as a society, though, if we don’t aim to let them back out as reformed, respectful characters at some point in their lives?

Losing their liberty is their punishment. You can debate the conditions they face while they are doing time – and the daft sentencing guidelines that exist – until the cows come home. But neither of those things have anything to do with democracy.

There are plenty of people I disagree with, who do things I don’t like, things that I actually find deplorable.

We can’t go around taking the vote off them. Of course, it would be a handy way to get rid of idiots like the BNP, but the point is people can exercise their democratic right to vote for whoever they want.

Why is it any different for prisoners and what do we have to fear from giving them the vote anyway?

You either believe in democracy or you don’t. It’s quite simple really, there aren’t any grey areas.


James Higham said...

Until October, eh? That will be interesting!

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, assuming that they get the vote, isn't there a bit of a problem if all the lags in one nick all vote in the same constituency? A thousand votes all in one direction could easily sway the result.... You could end up with the MP for Broadmoor etc.