Prisoners as Citizens

Published 12/06/2002
Type Article
Author(s) David Faulkner
Corresponding Authors

This article considers how the ideas of citizenship, and of the rights and responsibilities which go with it, might be applied to the treatment of prisoners and the management of prisons. Those ideas have different origins and can be applied in different ways and to serve different purposes. They have become politically prominent since the change of government in 1997, especially as a result of the incorporation into domestic law of the European Convention on Human Rights through the Human Rights Act 1998; of the Government’s insistence that those rights are linked with responsibilities; of its programme to reduce social exclusion; and of its efforts to promote a sense of common identity among communities which are culturally and religiously diverse.

Within prisons, ideas of citizenship have received some recognition in programmes for resettlement and for work which benefits local communities. But prisoners are often still seen, politically and institutionally, as people who have for the most part forfeited their rights as citizens; and prisons are seen as institutions which are set apart from ordinary society. This article argues that a consistent attempt to treat prisoners as citizens rather than outcasts would not only carry into prisons the values which both the Government and the opposition political parties are seeking to promote in society as a whole, but would also enable the Prison and Probation Services more effectively to achieve the aims of resettlement and rehabilitation to which the Government is also committed. In the process, staff would gain in self-respect and the respect of others, and would find greater satisfaction in their work.