Prisoners as citizens

November 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

When I was a child, I was shocked to discover that the Minister for Education had never been a teacher, and might become the Minister for Transport over night.  It doesn’t shock me now, but I find it helpful to remember the things about politics that I found incredible on first hearing.  Another shock was the discovery that prisoners have no vote.  Having learnt that people vote in their own leaders, I couldn’t understand who might take their votes away.

While I now know much more about populism and the British press, depriving people of votes still shocks me .  Today, I would express this as the idea that prisons are built to keep people in, but not to cast them out.  Prisoners are citizens with rights and responsibilities like the rest of us.  So I am pleased about today’s announcement, although now if I was made king for a day, there would only be nine things on my to-do list.

Many of the innovations that we have come across in relation to prison  also express the idea that prisoners are citizens and that we aspire for them to be free again one day.  In our Green Next Practice Programme we are working with WORP, which trains prisoners in waste oil recycling, helping them to gain employment when they leave prison through which they can help to tackle climate change.  Last year, we were proud to work with Gatemate, which brings together third sector organisations to seek to meet 18-25 year-olds at the prison gate as they are released.  And last week we heard about Storybook Dads, who record fathers in prison reading stories for their children.  That is a fantastic innovation that no doubt makes a big difference, but it also expresses brilliantly that prisoners too have rights to be heard and responsibilities to take care of.

By John Craig

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Entry filed under: Public Services.

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