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Violation of Social Contract: Do Prisoners Deserve The Right to Vote

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, rights are qualities (such as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval. Prisoners have committed a crime, they violate the ‘social contract’. A custodial sentence has always resulted in loss of freedom and loss of democratic rights for the duration of a prisoner’s sentence” (Aitken 2015). Why change that? Is there any moral imperative for such a change? Do prisoners deserve the right to vote? The social contract is the agreement among citizens to abide by rules and laws for the good of society, so prisoners should not have the right to vote because it would be tedious for the government and electoral office to organize fair voting in prison based on the requirements of the law in Jamaica and prisoners have shown that they cannot comply with the laws of their country.

It would be tedious for the government and electoral office to organize fair voting in prison based on the requirements of the law. The Jamaican law clearly states that, “The electoral system does not allow electorates to vote outside of the parish they’re enumerated / Residence verification” (Electoral Commission of Jamaica)/ (Representation of the People Act 1999). Would it be fair for the government or the electoral office to change or alter the law for persons who cannot follow the law? When a prison is incarcerated they are no longer identified by name but by a number and in Jamaica identification is needed for voting,“ the elector is unable to produce his identification card or other prescribed document establishing his identity or use it for the purposes of establishing his 2411966 identity by reason of the fact that the Chief Electoral S. 2.;” Part IV S7(a) “(Representation of the People Act 1999). Being in prison means one has been ‘cut off’ from civic engagements like paying taxes, having access to healthcare or even interaction with public sphere. Once a person has committed a crime, they have given up there right as a citizen, according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms- Jamaica, “the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which the person has been convicted”. (Need closing point)

Prisoners have shown that they cannot comply with the laws of their country. Prisoners incarcerated has proven that they cannot comply with the law, Jamaican statistics has shown that, the recidivism rate is 29%. Recidivism only speaks to offenders who are re-convicted, not those who are charged or those who commit offences again but are not caught (McKay 2018). Voting is not a necessity, like being able to eat or go to the toilet, it is a right that is earned and according to The New York Daily News Editorial Board, losing rights available to the law-abiding is part of a prisoner’s punishment. This is especially true for murder, where not only is an individual’s life lost, but so too a citizen’s ability to participate in democracy. Do you still believe a prisoner should have the right to vote when incarcerated? Let us not forget prison is meant to be punishment for crimes, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg believes that part of the punishment when a person is convicted of a crime and incarcerated is one loses certain rights; they also lose their freedom. And he thinks during that period it does not make sense to have an exception for the right to vote”. (Need closing point)

Some may argue that while in prison, some prisoners are well behaved and as such they should be able to vote. In the United Kingdom under their Representation of the People Act, certain steps are takes to make it easier for eligible prisoners to register to vote, subject to the existing discretion of Electoral Registration Officers (Stuart 2016). Prisoners should be allowed to vote to express their political views and have rights to the first amendment, freedom of speech. Prisoners deserve the right to vote because it is an individual right, it could help them re-enter society, and could influence the election and according to Jacqueline Alemany journalist at Washington Post any connection prisoners have with their community is helpful, so even if it is the right to vote. (Need closing point) All crimes are equal under the law, none is less than the other.      

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