Friday, February 11, 2011

Prisoners Voting Rights

The current debate about whether prisoners should be allowed to vote is very evocative one. It raises all sorts of issues about fairness and whether sentencing for crimes should be punitive or remedial. The question is, are we putting convicted persons in prison to reform them or to punish them? Depending on what their crime is there must be an element of both. As a regular visitor to prison (in a pastoral role!) I am very aware of how prison affects the individual.

Essentially they are in prison because they are guilty. Breaking the law has consequences and a withdrawal of privileges is part of that. Our society has chosen to restrict a person's liberties by taking them out of society and housing them in prison. Have we become so soft on reality that we cannot see that the rights of the individual were forfeited by them when they committed their crime? I am not suggesting for a moment that a person cannot be reformed or forgiven. I believe as a Christian very strongly in the doctrine of redemption. But I believe that to enjoy forgiveness the consequences of wrong must be faced and accounted for. Personally God has provided a basis for our forgiveness through the death of his Son, Jesus.

As a society we have responsibilities to both the general public and to the offenders. For the benefit of all we must ensure that the penalty for each crime is appropriate. We must ensure that when an individual has served their sentence that the result is that they have been educated to once again enjoy the liberties of life in the community. But in all of this we should not confuse fairness to the criminal with just punishment for crimes committed.

Feel free to download my latest podcast from Why me? is the latest talk. Why is life so hard for some and not for others? Is it fair? Have a listen, see what you think.


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