Prisoners have fundamental voting right like all citizens. They have the same citizenship status as those who are not in prison.
Global best practice makes it a right for citizens to vote wherever they are. If Ghanaians in the diaspora are being considered in subsequent elections, through the Representation of the People Amendment Law (ROPAL), Act (699), why deny prisoners their inalienable right to determine how they are governed and who governs them?
Currently, the country’s prisons are brimming with eligible voters, who are locked up for several reasons.
While it is true that many of them have criminal records, many others do not. There are those serving lighter sentences for civil infractions.
If prisons are to really serve and be treated as reformatory centres, it makes sense to allow inmates, especially those awaiting trial and with short sentences for civil infractions, to have a voice about who governs them and how they are governed.
Otherwise, they would have trouble reintegrating into their communities at the end of their sentences. Excluding them from the basic right of participating in governance, adds further to an already significant disconnect with fellow citizens.
Unless we admit to being hypocritical when we speak of “rehabilitating” prisoners, we must admit them back into the mainstream of acceptable social activities, including the right to vote.
Convicted criminals do not give up all of their basic human rights just by being convicted. The right to vote is critical to what democracy is all about and everyone should have the opportunity to participate.
Social justice demands that prisoner enfranchisement should be taken as seriously as other groups, including political parties, are demanding that the Electoral Commission, should implement ROPAL this year, to allow Ghanaians living abroad to take part in the elections. .
It may be a novelty, but it is a fundamental human liberty issue. Since there is no constitutional provision that bars prisoners from voting in the country, logistics cannot be a reason to deny them this right either.
Prisoners are not pastoralists; they are unlike trading and fishing communities that are constantly on the move. Their location, number, and state are predictable, while their votes are not susceptible to manipulation.