Why has society seen fit to build prisons? Prisons are buildings or complexes constructed to house people who have been judged too dangerous to be at liberty among the general population.
Convicted prisoners lose many rights. They lose the right to freedom of movement, to live at home with their families, to hold a job in the outside world, and to mingle with friends and neighbours whenever they wish.
For much of the day, prisoners are locked within the confines of cage-like enclosures called cells because they have proven they cannot be trusted. Whether their crime was murder, armed robbery, drug dealing or any of a thousand different felonies, they have been judged to be unfit to live in a civilized society.
How did they get themselves into this predicament? They made bad choices. Instead of obeying the laws of the land, they chose to flaunt them. They believed they knew better than the great minds which codified and wrote these laws. They believed they were above the law.
Clearly their judgement is seriously flawed. Any decisions they make will be questionable at best. Very often, their decisions will be downright wrong, just as they have proven to be in the past. For this reason, prisoners should be denied the right to vote.
One of the purposes of sending criminals to prison is to try to rehabilitate them. With counselling, with time to reflect on their misdeeds, with the distress of losing their freedom, and the loneliness of forced separation from family and friends, it is hoped that they’ll see the error in their ways and resolve to live a law-abiding life once they regain their freedom.
Does the strategy work? Sometimes, unfortunately not always. For some, prison becomes a way of life. Short periods of freedom are interspersed with ever-longer prison sentences. These habitual reoffenders, in my opinion, should never be allowed to vote.
However, once a prisoner has paid his debt to society, and regained his freedom, he should be expected to live a crime-free life for five years. Once this period is passed, he may regain the privilege of voting.
If his sentence was longer than fifteen years, he should have to hold down a steady job for at least three years, and be able to produce witnesses, such as his employer and two family members who will testify that he has successfully been reintegrated into the community.
Voting in today’s world is a serious matter. We depend on our leaders to defend us from crime in our neighbourhoods, terrorism on the national front, environmental dangers in the air, in the water and food supply, and to maintain our country’s infrastructure in satisfactory condition.
Choosing these leaders should be done by citizens of sound mind and good judgement. Clearly, felons who have made a mess of their own lives and ended up in prison, do not meet these criteria. They should be denied the right to vote until they can prove that they have reformed and are successfully rehabilitated.
These reinstated voters will then be prime examples of a prison system which has accomplished just what it was intended to do.