Criminal Law and Philosophy 10 (3):411-425 (2016)

This paper considers the justifiability of removing the right to vote from those convicted of crimes. Firstly, I consider the claim that the removal of the right to vote from prisoners is necessary as a practical matter to protect the democratic process from those who have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Secondly, I look at the claim that offenders have broken the social contract and forfeited rights to participate in making law. And thirdly, I look at the claim that the voting ban is essential part of the justified punishment of serious offenders. These arguments have in common the feature that they attempt to articulate the sense in which rights imply responsibilities, particularly that voting rights should be conditional on one’s having met one’s civic responsibilities. I argue that the only interpretation of this view that could justify prisoner disenfranchisement is that which thinks of disenfranchisement as fair and deserved retributive punishment for crime. Against widespread opposition to, and confusion about, the importance of retributive punishment, I offer a brief defence. However, I conclude that even if legitimate retributive purposes could in principle justify prisoner disenfranchisement, the significance of disenfranchisement is such that it should be reserved for the most serious crimes.
Keywords Punishment  Democracy  Voting  Felon disenfranchisement  Franchise  Citizenship
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DOI 10.1007/s11572-014-9316-3
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References found in this work BETA

The Expressive Function of Punishment.Joel Feinberg - 1965 - The Monist 49 (3):397-423.
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Marxism and Retribution.Jeffrie G. Murphy - 1973 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 2 (3):217-243.

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