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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Let prisoners vote says Strangeways riot governor

Let prisoners vote says Strangeways riot governor

Mr O’Friel was in charge of HMP Manchester during the infamous 25 days of unrest in 1990.

The governor in charge of Strangeways during the riots has backed moves to give prisoners the vote.

Brendan O’Friel said controversy was being deliberately stirred up over the ‘non issue’ for political reasons.

Mr O’Friel was in charge of HMP Manchester during the infamous 25 days of unrest in 1990.

He told the M.E.N: “I think it is a totally sensible thing to give prisoners the right to vote and then encourage them to vote.

“Whatever those people have done it is a question of trying to make sure that they are going to make a contribution to the community rather than being a drain on it.

“Anything we can do to encourage them to take responsibility and think positively is a very good thing.”

The government is grappling with the issue after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that denying the vote to prisoners was a violation of their human rights.

David Cameron said the idea made him ‘physically ill’ but ministers insist that refusing to obey the ruling could leave Britain open to fines worth tens of millions of pounds.

Last week the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to reject any lifting of the ban, which has been in place since 1870.

MPs backed a motion opposing the move by 234 to 22.

Mr O’Friel said ‘an awful lot of hot air’ had been expended by both Labour and Conservative opponents of the move and accused the two major parties of ‘competing on tough rhetoric’.

He added that he thought relatively few prisoners would take up the ballot saying: “ I suspect not a huge number would actually vote.

“The sort of background prisoners come from and the sorts of people that they are mean they probably won’t be hugely interested.”

Mr O’Friel, who retired in 1996 and now lives on his native Isle of Man, said the right to vote would need to be accompanied by civic lessons.

He said: “I hope there will be a real effort to educate prisoners about the responsibility of voting because 10-1 they will know little about the political process”.

He said the prison population faced much bigger problems with mental health and illiteracy and added that in 33 years as a governor no inmate had ever asked him about voting rights.

Comment: Whilst I agree with him that convicted prisoners should vote, I cannot forget that he was the man legally responsible for the Strangeways riot and allowed the screws to brutally treat the prisoners. Had he been the governor of a prison in Russia he would have got 10 years for this!

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