‘Political death’ for parties that support/oppose prisoner voting

One very important reason why a prisoner should not have the right to vote is quite simple. Offenders have by their own choice, their own actions and their own behaviours, shown that they do not respect New Zealand law. Due to these choices, actions and behaviours, prisoners should no longer be allowed to be involved in the process of change. The right to vote should only be for those who contribute to our society.

 

While Māori only make up 15 per cent of the population, they are over-represented in prison. There are currently 51% of prisoners who are Māori and since the level of Māori Prisoners is higher than that of any other ethnicity, prisoner voting is a perfect platform to push Māori and offender-based agendas and debates.

 

Some believe it is against the Bill of Rights to stop a prisoner having the right to vote, however this theory has been heard in the Supreme Court with no change being made.

 

History has shown that voter disenfranchisement for criminals has been around since the ancient Greek and Roman times. The English colonists brought the idea to America. Crimes against individuals and society resulted in “civil death,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This included loss of property and prohibition from entering into contracts. For centuries, crimes committed against individuals could also be interpreted as crimes against society (according to some law-makers). Convicted offenders have shown throughout history they could not be trusted with certain rights and abiding by Governing Laws.

 

We continuously keep going back to the treaty, what about what the offenders have done to the children they killed, they children the raped. Maori have one of the highest child abuse statistics, there is never any excuse that will ever make that acceptable.

 

Voting is a privilege and for those who want to better our country, for those who want a positive change, for those who want our country to be a safe and reasonable country for their children. If those who are incarcerated want to vote, then they need to focus on completing their rehabilitation so they can be released from prison and get that vote.

 

When an offender commits a crime, they leave behind a trail of destruction, hurt and pain – for life. If we are so concerned about the Maori incarceration rate then we need to focus on the crimes they are committing. We are saying that Maori are committing horrendous violent crimes because of their disconnection with Maori; how will voting change that? Allowing Prisoners to vote will not in any way attend to their rehabilitation needs, it will not reconnect them with their Maori heritage.

Do we really need to disenfranchise Victims even more than what we already do? So much has already been stolen from a Victims life and they will never be the same again.

 

Following are some statistics on the offending of those criminals in prison as at 2018:

71% are for serious violent offences

12% are for drugs and drug related – almost exclusively manufacturing,

dealing and importing

12% are for weapons, breaches, arson and fraud offences

5% are for multiple driving offences

On average, prisoners have 46 prior convictions

 

As of 2018 the 15% of Maori that make up the population 247,494 were enlisted on the Maori role, 224,755 are on the general roll. At the 2017 General Election only 338,980 Maori voted meaning 133,269 just did not care enough to have their say.

 

Of that 133,269 of Maori that did not vote was 5157 incarcerated Maori Woman and Men.

 

We must draw the line in the sand at some point and remember that those incarcerated did not respect their right to vote before they committed their crime. They cannot claim that the treaty or the law removed these rights. They chose to commit the crime and were incarcerated as a consequence of that offending; they are the only ones that removed their right to vote.

 

Laws, Justice systems and prison terms vary between each country.  Some Countries only allow offenders to vote after they have proven themselves to become productive members of society.  This may require a time period of five to seven from release.  This is an incentive we should adopt if the right for prisoners in vote in New Zealand is ever changed.

 

Jess McVicar
National Spokesperson
Sensible Sentencing Trust

 

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