Posts Tagged ‘Hannah McFaull’

Votes for prisoners: tough shadow ministerial soundbites don’t help

22/01/2011, 05:00:56 PM

by Hannah McFaull

Shadow justice minister, Sadiq Khan MP, has consistently said that the government should be “standing up for the victims of crime” instead of giving the vote to “dangerous convicted prisoners”. This is a false dichotomy, a comment which risks inflaming tension around an already emotive issue.

Research and polling has consistently shown that for the majority of victims of crime, the result they want from the criminal justice process is that no one has to suffer again in the way that they have. On a basic level, before you get into crime prevention, this means stopping reoffending. When you dig even further into the numbers, victims of crime rank rehabilitation and reform of the individual much higher than punishment as priorities for the justice system.

Casting aside other arguments about the need to address the underlying causes of crime, penal reformers are right to say that treating prisoners as citizens has a much higher success rate at reintroduction into society following time inside. Many prisoners come from socially excluded backgrounds and won’t have had the experiences of social responsibility that many people in society have.

This could be paying tax on earnings in prison and understanding why taxation is important. It could be training on how to fill in a job application or buy an Oyster card. Or it could be involvement in the political process through gaining the franchise. The truth is that voting, tax and working are social responsibilities more than they are social rights and getting prisoners involved in this process can only be a positive step.

I am not arguing that all prisoners should definitely have the right to vote. In fact, as a penal reformer there are much more pressing issues on which we should be concentrating.

But comments like those made by Sadiq Khan only serve to confuse what victims actually want – less offending in future – with what is politically viable for a shadow justice minister in opposition.

Issues of rehabilitation, reintegration, crime and punishment are complex and emotive. Here there are issues of delicate European and UK sovereignty at play too. Very little is self-evident in matters such as these. Perhaps the one thing that is, is that sound bites don’t do a great deal to help the debate.

Hannah McFaull blogs here.

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We owe it to young people to keep sex ed on the curriculum, says Hannah McFaull

15/08/2010, 02:00:38 PM

Question: What is a clitoris?

Answer: Is it a fish in the Amazon?

Question: What happens if you’re having sexual intercourse and the condom splits?

Answer: Do you wash her (sic) out with white spirit?

Genuine questions from a genuine sex education lesson in an east London school with a group of 15 year olds. Aside from cringing at the second answer, the more worrying indication is that we’re not doing enough or starting early enough when talking to our children about their bodies, relationships and sexuality.

Imagine that even the basic, inadequate wisdom that we currently impart wasn’t compulsory or standardised. Not knowing the basic human anatomy of your own body, let alone the anatomy of anyone else’s. Not understanding how to prevent the spread of disease. Not appreciating that you have a choice in avoiding becoming a parent until you’re ready.


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