Lock ’em up and throw away their rights

Yet more plans are being suggested by the British government which will actively widen the gap between the privileged and the unfortunate.

These latest proposals suggest stripping those in prison of even more of whatever rights and human decency remain to them. Convicted criminals may be banned from “claiming compensation for injuries sustained in attacks, in prison or after release”, as well as being denied the right to vote while serving time.

As The Justice Gap points out, the language used by politicians around these issues often serves to place “criminals” in some external category, as being separate from the rest of us and wholly defined by the fact of their having been convicted of some crime. The fact that these are still people we’re talking about is easily forgotten, making the idea of denying them compensation if they’re physically assaulted easier to swallow.

This othering and dehumanisation is even worn as a badge of pride by the people who run the country. The Prime Minister was quoted last year as saying:

It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.

Now, that’s a very unusual thing to have your stomach literally turned by. It seems far more likely that David Cameron is merely strongly against the idea, and used this common idiom to emphasise his point. But the fact that he was so keen to exaggerate his feelings makes it clear that he expects to be praised and admired for taking such a strong, no-nonsense attitude. He finds it a courageous and powerful aspect of his character, to be so sickened by this entire demographic of the citizens whose interests he’s supposed to be serving.

Rights are called rights for a reason. They’re things we’re all supposed to be entitled to, not things we are only granted by the magnanimity of the state.

Clearly there are some individual instances in which restraining some of those rights is currently the best we can make of a bad situation – I’m not arguing that every violent offender should be allowed the unmitigated right to walk the streets.

But to sweepingly deny basic individual liberties to an entire swathe of the population, generalising about every one of them, regardless of personal circumstances, and marginalising this out-group even further for the good of the “society” you’re trying to pretend they’re not a part of? That’s some fine othering, right there.

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2 thoughts on “Lock ’em up and throw away their rights

  1. A mega crime bill was recently passed by the Harper government in Canada despite public protest by several non-government agencies and by the legal profession. the bill passed despite the need for further study. That’s what comes of majority governments – they feel the public has granted them carte blanche to do whatever they want. It will take Canada several years, if not decades to correct the damages caused by this notorious “crime bill”.
    Government officials in Britain are not alone in the “throw away the key” mentality that focuses on denying rights to ALL its citizens.

  2. Sonicsaturn says:

    Someone who I work with at the Forestry Commission used to work in our base wood with prisoners from Winchester prison, just him, and 2 prisoners, with saws etc working in a forest, that was it, I’m not sure if this was before he joined the FC or not, I’m very sure it was, but regardless, I can see this helping the prisoners a lot, but sadly the head whatever he is didn’t like it and said no to it after a while, now sure you definitely need good prisoners who are going to mend their ways etc when they’re almost on their own in a rather large forest. But anyway. Grrr.

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