When Canadians vote in the federal election in October, thousands will cast their ballot from behind bars. Inmates in federal prisons and provincial jails are eligible to vote for a candidate in the riding where they lived before they were incarcerated. In the last federal election in 2011, voter turnout was 54 per cent in penitentiaries, not far below the 61 per cent who exercised their democratic right in the general population. “They are part of the polity and they want to be part of the democratic process,” Catherine Latimer, executive director of The John Howard Society of Canada, told CBC News.
Because prisoners have time to read and watch television news, they are just as informed – if not even more so – than Canadian voters on the outside, she said. Kits will also be distributed to help them with the voting process.
A 2002 Supreme Court of Canada judgment gave federal prisoners the right to vote on constitutional grounds, ruling 5-4 that voting is a fundamental right in a democracy.