Port Lincoln prisoners could soon lose their right to vote in state and council elections if new legislation is passed.
However there is something to be said for keeping these links to the outside world.
The state government is proposing prisoners serving three years or more be excluded from the vote during their imprisonment.
This would bring South Australia into line with federal restrictions on prisoner voting.
The state opposition proposed that only prisoners serving a life sentence be excluded from the vote during their stay behind bars.
However, the Australian Human Rights Commission does not support the view that prisoners should have their right to vote suspended during their period of imprisonment.
Currently all prisoners in South Australia can vote in the state and local government elections.
There are strong arguments from both sides around whether prisoners should have the right to vote at all.
After all, shouldn’t they forfeit that liberty after committing a crime?
But others argue that voting can be a part of prisoners’ rehabilitation and a connection to the outside world could benefit them and the community upon their release.
Because while prison is certainly about punishment it is also about rehabilitation.
It might not be something the system is very good at but taking away a prisoner’s right to vote it hardly going to improve that.
Allowing prisoners, who are not serving life sentences, the right to vote and have a voice should be considered a positive thing surely.
Wouldn’t it be better to keep that engagement for prisoners so that when they are released they feel connected to the community and world around them.
Because isn’t people feeling disconnected, forgotten or disenfranchised part of what gets them into prison in the first place?
The current Electoral (Prisoner Voting) Bill means Port Lincoln prisoners could have voted in the recent council elections and the 2018 state election.
And if these are local people who when released will be trying to get jobs and be contributing members of society surely it makes sense for them to be able to vote.
The debate will no doubt continue to heat up but it seems silly to expect prisoners to come out better than they went in if we’re going to treat them like they don’t exist.