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Voting Rights for Prisoners [Written Evidence Submission]

Davies, Gregory and Jones, Robert 2019. Voting Rights for Prisoners [Written Evidence Submission]. Justice and Jurisdiction, Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University. Available at:

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The Case for Extending the Franchise to Prisoners • It is our shared view that the Welsh Government should extend the franchise for Welsh elections to all prisoners. We support this view with legal, reintegrative and political arguments. • The legal arguments. The Welsh Government should go beyond the minimal efforts made by the UK Government to comply with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on this issue. It is questionable whether the kind of administrative measures adopted by the UK Government in 2017 will be sufficient in the long term to satisfy the courts that the current legislative ban on prisoner voting no longer violates the right to participate in elections under Article 3 of the First Protocol (‘A3P1’) of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’). • International law clearly supports prisoners’ rights of democratic participation, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. • The reintegrative arguments. We believe that the current law fails in its stated aims to reduce crime and to act as a means of positive retributive punishment. The ban on prisoner voting is also counter-productive to the aims of prisoner reintegration. • We believe that the decision to extend the franchise to prisoners would further facilitate the reintegration of Welsh prisoners. This decision would offer direct support to the Welsh Government’s existing responsibilities for prisoner rehabilitation and resettlement. • The political arguments. We believe that the extension of the franchise to prisoners would be a powerful demonstration of the Welsh Government’s commitment to the promotion of human rights and democratic engagement. It would enhance the international reputation of Wales and, by extension, the UK. Incidentally, it would also undo much of the damage caused by the UK’s refusal to meet its obligation in international law to comply with the adverse rulings of the ECtHR on this issue. • We also believe that extending the vote to prisoners would be consistent with the Welsh Government’s approach to international human rights law, as reflected in the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure, the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure and the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. Operationalising the Franchise • We believe that the custody threshold and sentence length are arbitrary measures for the loss of the vote. Under such a system, the actual loss of voting rights is, in most cases, determined by the date of sentencing, early release, the timing of elections and the location of sentencing. The latter is subject to the well-known problem of a ‘sentencing lottery’ whereby the commission of the same offence can result in a custodial sentence and loss of voting rights in one area but a non-custodial sentence and retention of voting rights in another. • This position is supported by data from the Wales Governance Centre’s Sentencing and Immediate Custody in Wales report which show that the average custody rate is higher at courts in Wales than in England. These data also reveal that Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe. • In terms of implementing the extended franchise, we believe that the model based on a declaration of local interest offers a viable way forward. It will allow prisoners held in England to participate in Welsh elections and will enable the Welsh Government to draw on its experience of providing support services to Welsh prisoners held across England and Wales. It will also prevent the risk of a sudden and drastic increase in the electorates for constituencies in which Welsh prisons are located.

Item Type: Monograph (UNSPECIFIED)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Wales Governance Centre (WGCES)
Publisher: Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University
Related URLs:
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 March 2020
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 13:33

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