I have long been in favour of changing the way we punish people. We seem devoid of any creative ways to look at better and more cost effective ways of punishing those who break our laws.
I believe prison must exist for the worst crimes - murder, rape, armed robbery, serious violent crimes but, for lesser crimes, we should be thinking of some new ways that do not involve locking them up and begrudging the cost. In the meantime we should focus on rehabilitation.
I do not include those serving long term sentences in the notion that prisoners should have the vote
but for those who have less than 4 years and so will come out of the prison service while the newly elected government is still in situ, we need to see giving them the vote as part of their rehabilitation process.
Too many people do not want to understand that prison is the punishment, loss of freedom is the real kicker and that we shouldn't be making their lives completely miserable nor should we write them off.
Many prisoners have made some terrible mistakes but for some, that is all it is. Everyone deserves a chance to turn their lives around and many do - becoming worthwhile citizens who can contribute more than the average person.
At the conservative conference there was a great speaker, an ex offender who now works for St Giles. This is an extract from The Prisoners Education website
The conference also heard from an ex-prisoner, Elroy, who works at St. Giles Trust said he spent a long time in and out of prison, then tragically, a younger prisoner he had been trying to help died from a drugs overdose weeks after his release. This gave Elroy the motivation to engage in education for the first time inside and it offered him a different path.
If a person is to take self responsibility, become a good citizen and to not re-offend then they need to become part of a democracy that values law and boundaries, to take their vote seriously and to learn about what the issues are facing the country, rather than the insular, selfish mindset that probably got them to their prison cell in the first place.
Budding MPs could visit prisons and engage those that are about to be released as part of the prisoners 'home run'.
As for smoking - well I used to be a smoker and if anyone had taken away my tobacco in my own 'home' I would've probably threatened some bad behaviour too!
What is it to be? - Do we care enough about their health that we worry so much about the damage of smoking? Oh really? When did that happen?!
Well I do - and I say let them have smoke. There could be smoking cells and non-smoking cells - why not let them come up with a solution that satisfies both parties?
Do we want to make the lives of prison wardens even harder - why don't we start with eliminating illegal drugs first - wow what a random idea that is.
They have been put in prison and often spend hours a day locked in their cells - are we also going to take away the small comforts? Prison and it's regime is punishment enough - and probably a lot more damaging to their health than any tobacco smoke - which I imagine are extremely thin and do less damage than car fumes, from which they do not have to suffer.
Please - why are we bothering to do this in such a lazy way?
Let's be innovative, creative, punish with rehabilitation, deliver training and show some compassion.
We might get more Elroys and wouldnt that be just grand..