Prisoners deserve a vote. I believe all of them deserve one, because it is something a civilised and democratic country should encourage. Prisoners that aren't able to vote are a dangerous thing to democracy, since the very existence of a means of stripping someone of their vote leaves the door open for politicians to abuse their position. While we may be a long way off Cameron being the sort of person to form a crack down on left-wing political activists to silence them and weaken their favoured parties, sharing that particular trait with much less democratic countries than our own is nothing to be proud of.
However I am also a realist, and I understand wholeheartedly that the public in their vengeful glory would rather punish a rapist or a murderer in any way possible, even if that includes the rather insignificant matter of them casting a vote. This is why I think it is absolutely right to support that any prisoner who's time of incarceration would be up within the life of the next parliament has the right to vote.
Think about it. If a person is in prison on the day of an election, yet then released the day after, as they have served their time and done their punishment...why is it correct for them to have not had a vote? They will spend every single day under a government, and under an MP, that they had no say over...how is this fair?
Arguably any prisoner who will, at some point, become a free person again...a clean slate to start from...deserves to have a say in how the country is run to help them, as any other member of the public, all the way in to the future...but it's much easier to make the case for the clear interaction that the next government will have on that soon-to-be ex-prisoner's life.
There's really so little to lose, and so much to gain, by doing this. We send a message that the powers that be are not able to silence us for short periods of time, if they ever wished to do so, we give people that are supposed to be rehabilitated and reintroduced in to society as productive members of society the franchise to feel a part of it, and yet we also placate those who simply can't reconcile that a single serious criminal voting for their favoured MP is not going to turn the tide of the country to a dystopian criminal nightmare.
It's time the government stopped digging their heels in here, and I hope the Lib Dems will help soften the ground over the next 6 months. A modern civilised society allows everyone to vote who has a stake in the country, and that includes prisoners...whether it makes you feel uneasy or not.