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The Contender
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In this world (ie. not in a perfect world) prisoners should get the vote.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/31/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 616 times Debate No: 61057
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
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Impossible to accept, please comment. Could the first round be the case for not alowing prisoners to vote, as I feel this stance bares the burden of proof.


I think I saw this on a poll a day or two ago. Thanks for making an actual debate for it!

I'm also really hoping by "prisoner," you mean someone who has committed a crime and is in a jail, or a prison - and not someone who is being held captive against their will.

As there are four rounds, I will briefly bring up a few things here, and we can do a little back-and-fourth for the next three rounds.

A prisoner is someone who has been locked away from society because they have committed an act that harms another person, or people.

A prisoner spends time in prison, not a jail. While a jail holds people either awaiting sentencing, waiting for a court date, or serving time for a misdemeanor, a prison holds inmates who have been sentenced for a crime, usually more serious than petty crimes such as possession of marijuana or graffiti.

A prisoner's impact on society obviously was not a good one, as they have been locked away from society. To allow these people to have a say in who is running the country, or even city, would most likely be detrimental. They probably wouldn't be too concerned about how well the politician runs the area they're representing, but more of how the prisoner can benefit from it; less prison sentences, legalization of substances or actions that should be illegal and are detrimental to society, etc. Prisoners have a different mindset than working citizens. You and I work for someone to earn money to buy things, whereas prisoners (usually) will do what they can to exploit, extort or steal from someone or a company usually to spend the money on something that can harm themselves or (most likely) other people, such as drugs or weapons. To allow people who would prefer to take from someone than help their community, the ability to elect someone to represent them could lead to a rapid decline in society and the economy.

Think about it - who would prisoners elect? Someone who wants to implement better health care, more police forces, stricter gun laws, faster response time to crimes, etc? Or someone who is planning on legalizing drugs, cutting down on government spending on corporations that help the public in general, much lighter gun laws (if any at all) and things like that?

What would benefit society more?

I agree that we should allow people a freedom to vote and freedom of speech, however if that vote is probably detrimental to society, there's really no reason to allow it.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for your response, I look forward to our debate.

My arguments for not taking away the voting rights of prisoners are as follows:

--It has almost no consequences: The collective prison population account for about 0.1% of the population (less than half an MP, statistically), and they could only vote in this '0.4% of an MP',if they where all voting in the same constituency and united behind there chosen representative. If he did get into power, he would be one Independent vote, amid 434 voters that are united and organised by the two main parties. So, even in a hypothetical situation by which prisoners where allowed to unite there vote into one constituency, and every prisoner then actually voted for a single representative: it would still have no real consequences. (These figures don't even take into consideration the lower turnout of those most likely to go to prison (2))

--Taking away someones right to speak is against freedom, and against true wisdom. Nelson Mandella was a prisoner. Prisoners are not one dimensional characters who can only be described as prisoners. They are human beings, as layered as you are, and originally, naturally innocent. A child of God-if you will. You cannot judge a person unless you have walked in their shoes, nor can you assume their delinquency on account of one of their actions. They might have sound political views. Either way, it doesn't really effect them much in terms of happiness. So it's not worth scorning that its more than they deserve, whether it is or isn't isn't up to anyone else anyway, because it isn't going to make them any happier.

--It doesnt well serve any of the purposes of prison. Those purposes being: deterrent, punishment, safety, rehabilitation (1). It does not massively deter, for lower class turnout is the lowest of all (2), and I'm not sure if voting is uppermost in the priorities of the majority of criminals. Secondly, it does not provide any additional safety to the public. Thirdly, it doesn't effectively punish: for as I have said, voting isn't typically an absolute must, to the majority of people that go to prison. And lastly: it actually rehabilitates them more if we encourage their participation into the wider society. Rather than to disengage them from it, even more than they already are.

--Taking away their vote makes them even more rebelious and disengaged towards society. Actaully respecting their freedom and encouraging them to vote, will decrease the resentment and disengadement they feel towards the wider society. Rehabilitation is the most benifitial coarse (for society) that a prisoner can take. Making them disengage with society even more, is going to have the opposite effect on rehabilitation. They don't vote anyway, and that's part of the problem. Encourage them to have a say in society (don't worry, they can't do any damage, government is far to domineering to allow it). Let them vote, so they can see that society does take them into consideration. This isn't about revenge, not least because its hardly revenge to take away their rights to vote into a system that is going to remain the same anyways, and that they care not for anyway. But also because revenge just makes people more bitter, and rehabilitation is what will benifit us all more than anything.


My opponent says: "You and I work for someone to earn money to buy things, whereas prisoners (usually) will do what they can to exploit, extort or steal from someone or a company usually to spend the money on something that can harm themselves or (most likely) other people, such as drugs or weapons."

Who do WE work for though? Companies like coca-cola and other multi-billion pound corporations exploit thousands. Coca-cola even murdered its employees (assuming you know about this-it was massive in USA). My opponent seems to have a very one-dimensional view of criminals. They are not all nasty people. Indeed, community values are probably more prevalent in poorer areas than richer areas. Also, immoral deeds are done by all, not just criminals. People who have committed a crime cannot be labeled as such. It is so superficial and hollow. It's called labelling, and its considered damaging and more importantly, inaccurate and misleading. My opponents idea of a criminal is not accurate, indeed it's quite bigoted if I may say so, I don't mean to be rude. My opponent sounds like a FOX news anchor talking about criminals.

The rest of my opponents argument, seems to revolve around the problem that prisoners would cause if they where allowed to vote. I hope the first part of my argument helps put this into perspective.

I think my opponent has made the biggest mistake, that history should have taught us to never make: He said "I agree that we should allow people a freedom to vote and freedom of speech, however if that vote is probably detrimental to society, there's really no reason to allow it."

This is brilliant, to see how this attitude can sound convincing. No, if somebody can take somebody else's free speech of vote away if they deem them detrimental to society, it's no longer free and just the same as a dictatorship. You contradict yourself massively here my friend, it is quite extraordinary. How would revolutions happen in this context?

I look forward to your response,
Thank you



Thanks for the response, you're doing a lot better than some of the people I see who start off a great topic like this then deteriorate to rubbish within the second round.

I will address your arguments, counter yours against mine, and present any new ones if I have any.

It has almost no consequences

This is a very simple thing to form a rebuttal to - because something has little effect on something does not mean it has no effect on something. A negative effect on something is still negative and still an effect, no matter how minuscule.

Taking away someone's right to speak is against freedom and true wisdom

When someone commits a horrible act that renders them incapable of interacting with society, they have given up some of their rights, and one of those rights makes sense - voting in an election is quite similar to interacting with society. Choosing someone to represent your country should be a right that only people who aren't locked away from their country should have. I agree that denying someone the right to vote does take away from their voice of wisdom, however once again, if you commit such acts that deem you detrimental to society, there isn't a very good reason to allow you to continue to preach your wisdom.

Nelson Mandela is a great example, however a very, very small percentage of prisoners are as intellectual as him and are as willing to benefit society like him. Also, Mandela had a lot to fight for, and the world in that time period actually needed some serious reshaping. He also lived in South Africa. I agree a lot needs to be changed throughout third world countries, but I'm sure (correct me if I'm wrong) our primary focus is first world countries. There is a big difference between voting for a president or politician, and ending racial discrimination, oppression, and a racial minority rule of a country. If we had to overthrow a tyrannical government, I would be on your side, but we don't, and the main thing prisoners (in first world countries) would accomplish, is giving a boost to politicians who benefit the individuals who are detrimental to other humans, and society.

It doesn't well serve any of the purposes of prison

So people in prison aren't too caught up on wanting to vote - why are you trying to allow them to then? This relates to the "I'm saving an atheist from going to Hell" idea. Locking someone away from society, then allowing them to vote for someone who will run that society is pretty counterproductive. The safety it would provide for the public is not being under the command of a (possibly) politician who will benefit prisoners and people with that type of mentality. Taking away their "freedom" to vote can be considered a punishment - something you said prison is designed for.

I have to clarify once again, we're talking about prison, not jail. People in prison are usually harder criminals, whereas people in jail are usually serving time for a misdemeanor.

Encouraging participation in society by someone who has been locked away from society is once again pretty counterproductive.

Taking away their vote makes them even more rebellious and disengaged towards society

This is the first point that really makes sense to me. However, the type of person they are, is (probably) not one that wishes to truly be a part of society, if they act in a way that the rest of society deems them to be incapable of interacting with us. I think there would be better ways to rehabilitate prisoners than allow them to vote in an election. Societal rehabilitation is extremely hard, especially in someone who can not act in a way that is acceptable in society.


We work for companies who keep the economy stable and continue/enable the growth and expansion of the human race. Coca-Cola is an exception. If they are not locked up for murdering people, then I don't really know what to say. I know there are criminals around us, however the difference is that those criminals (for the most part) are not detrimental to society in a sense that stops progress of the human race or physically harms someone. Someone who has committed a crime is a criminal. We are not talking about criminals, we are talking about prisoners. There is a difference.

Call that a dictatorship all you want, if you are detrimental to society, there is really no logical reason to consider your view on who is running the society, as you are one of the people who has been deemed incapable of interacting with that society. I believe we should earn our freedom to vote. If you are not a decent human being, why should you be able to pick who runs your country or land?

Thanks for some good arguments.
Debate Round No. 2



You say that it still has a little negative effect. I don't think its necessarily negative, there is nobody to vote for who would be doing such negative things. What do you mean when you say 'negative'? Who are you expecting them to vote for? In a 'First-past-the post' electoral system, the candidate with the most votes wins the seat, making all votes for other candidates meaningless. So, just because the prison population is 1% of the whole population, it wouldn't make up 1% of parliament if it where allowed the vote. Even if there where candidates in every constituency, whose philosophy aided the criminals, not one would come to Parliament. Only if roughly 49% of the non-criminal voters also voted for the candidate, making him legitimate anyway. So I hope this argument is settled now, as I have shown how giving them the vote does nothing to politics.

Additional point: Although I say they have no effect on politics in my last point, they actually do have a slight positive one. At least from my perspective. That is they will probably vote the left wing parties, and this encourages social change.

This next point is referring to your point on taking away rights and freedom:

You basically argue that they have no rights, or at least not the right to vote. I don't disagree with you. I think that if you rape, indiscriminately murder or are just an unpleasant violent person, then you don't deserve to vote. This is not about that though. You are not exactly making things nicer for them by giving them a vote every 4 years, they would much prefer cigarettes, an x-box, or freedom. They do need to be punished in order to bring closure to the victim, but I think they also need to be rehabilitated. Not for there sake, but for societies sake. Keeping prisoners is expensive and takes up space. Also, its the most moral thing to do, we cannot be vengeful. We must allow people to change, and if they don't, never let them out. I am not saying be soft on criminals. But our goal should be rehabilitation, not revenge. For all our sakes, not for the person who has done the bad thing.

You basically say they don't deserve it, but I think they don't really care either way, so your not exactly making things nicer for them

You say: "Encouraging participation in society by someone who has been locked away from society is once again pretty counterproductive."

You say its counter-productive. It sounds like it when you say it like that. It is not counter-productive though. As I have explained, an unorganised 1% of the population have actually no effect on government (bar perhaps a tiny boost to the left-wing candidates). That's not counter-productive is it? Helping to re-habilitate them slightly is not counter-productive either. It is in no way counter-productive, at worst it has no effect.

Your next point on disengagement from society:

You say: "the type of person they are, is (probably) not one that wishes to truly be a part of society"

Yes but that's the problem. That's why reminding them that society listens to them, by allowing them the vote, is a good thing. It helps them believe they are members and are part of a community. People aren't just the "type" of people that don't want to engage. They are pushed out and need reeling in.

You say: "We work for companies who keep the economy stable and continue/enable the growth and expansion of the human race. Coca-Cola is an exception. If they are not locked up for murdering people, then I don't really know what to say. I know there are criminals around us, however the difference is that those criminals (for the most part) are not detrimental to society in a sense that stops progress of the human race or physically harms someone. Someone who has committed a crime is a criminal. We are not talking about criminals, we are talking about prisoners. There is a difference."

Yes there is a difference. But the similarity is that they have acted wrongfully to another. And so my point is that you should not label these people mealy as 'criminals' and see them as alien, devil like non-human individuals. They are just people serving their time. This makes me sound empathetic to the criminals, I am not. This is the key point. I am not saying they deserve to vote, I am saying that taking it away from them is at best pointless, and at worst slightly detrimental to the rest of society.

I would not fight for this right. I just believe that if I was in charge, I would not take their vote away. This would be on the grounds that it may encourage them to see that society is 'for them' and not against them, and it isn't going to harm anyone. Let me make it clear once more, this is not about 'rights'. I do believe most criminals don't deserve to have a vote, but I think we should give them it for the good of the wider society.

Thank you.


I understand your argument, that 1% will not empower some horrible corrupt politician, as 49% of people who are not in prison would have to vote for them for the 1% figure to matter, meaning the politician is obviously not some horrible person. I agree to an extent on this, however, there is always a chance that the 1% sees something that the 49% do not, or the 49% have voted for this candidate for partially the same reasons as the prisoners. This is getting kind of out of hand, but my main point I'm trying to make is that saying "giving them the right to vote won't make much of a difference" is not much of an argument.

Social change in favour of people who have been imprisoned may not necessarily be a good thing. For us to say that prisoners should get a vote would mean we would have to have without a doubt, or reasonable expectations that it would be almost completely positive outcome. Saying "it may have a positive outcome" is not enough grounds to pass a law. It may also have a positive outcome to make owning guns illegal, does that mean we should just ban all guns?

Thanks for understanding where I'm coming from. Although I don't believe they need to be punished primarily to bring closure to the victim*, but to say allowing them the chance to vote would help in a rehabilitation process would need some examples and sources. Some people can fit in with society just fine, but have severe mental problems that cause them to act on pure emotion, which causes them to rape or murder people. Maybe they can vote just fine, or even interact with most people just fine.

*I believe they need to be punished, or locked away, to protect society.

If they don't care, then great. It's not supposed to be nice for rapists or murderers or really any king of criminal in prison.

Maybe I don't see prison as rehabilitation. Maybe I see it purely as a place that people go who are detrimental to society. If they were to go to a rehabilitation hospital, then I would say they should get the right to vote, but if they're in prison, locked away from society, they shouldn't have a say in who runs that society.

So these people have all had this right from the get-go. They know they have the right to vote, they know they can attend school and get an education, they know the police will protect them, they know they are part of a community. And they screwed that up. Saying "hey by the way, just reminding you that you can still vote in prison," will most likely have little to no effect on any type of rehabilitation back into society.

I don't see the "criminals" or "prisoners" as non-human, I see them as detrimental to society, which is why they have been locked away from society.

I would like to just bring up two points I made earlier that I believe are the most important;

1. Prisoners are in prison, not a rehabilitation hospital or clinic. If the prisoners were in a rehabilitation unit of the prison, then I might be more lenient on allowing a vote. They are locked away from society because they have been deemed detrimental to society. If those individuals end up entering a rehabilitation program, or area, I would be more lenient on allowing a vote.

2. These prisoners have had the right to vote and interact with society from the get-go. Giving them the right to vote in prison would not make a difference, and in turn not change their perspective on society and how they are viewed by society, as that is how they have been treated forever. They messed that up, and now they are in prison because of it. Saying "let's give them the right to vote" in hopes that it helps them understand that society is not against them is the wrong idea - society has given them the right to vote, and they should know society is not against them anyway.

Thank you too, this is going well!
Debate Round No. 3


Tommy.leadbetter forfeited this round.


Thanks for a good debate! Too bad you couldn't make it to the last round.

Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by cheyennebodie 3 years ago
I man in jail should not vote. Once he pays up, then his rights should be restored same as before.The only group that I see that should never be allowed to vote is anyone who gets any kind of government handout. Freeloaders have demonstrated that they are not responsible enough to have that privilege.
Posted by ForSerious 3 years ago
I've never seen this debate topic before. I'm intrigued.
I'm not sure what Mister Man meant about criteria or if I fit that criteria, but I'd like to accept your challenge.
Posted by Mister_Man 3 years ago
If nobody accepts by the 6 day mark, I will if you're okay with that. I don't meet your criteria but I'm sure I can come up with a few good reasons as to why prisoners should not get the vote.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 3 years ago
That's what I mean, I don't mean actual proof, I just mean the explanations for ones actions. For people have the vote regardless of whether they have broken the law, it is somebody putting their philosophy onto another and they must explain themselves to be allowed to effect another humans rights.
Posted by Mister_Man 3 years ago
You're asking for a burden of proof for an opinion? I'll accept but I don't really know what you're asking a burden of proof for, I can't prove prisoners shouldn't get a vote. I can however, give reasonable explanations as to why they should not.
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