4.1. Beginning and length of sentence
61% of respondents began their sentence before 1st April 2022; 39% on or after that date.
To be eligible for the survey, respondents had to have been sentenced to 12 months or less in prison. Of eligible respondents 31% were sentenced to less than 6 months and 69% were sentenced to between 6 and 12 months.
4.2. Previous voting history
Respondents were asked questions regarding their previous voting history in order to understand how politically engaged they had previously been, with specific regard to voting in Local Government or Scottish Parliament elections.
As can be seen in figure 3 below, 56% of respondents stated that they had never voted in a Local Government election before, 24% stated that they sometimes voted and 12% always voted. 8% of respondents stated they had not been eligible to vote at Local Government elections in Scotland before.
Similarly with regards to Scottish Parliament elections, the largest group of respondents were those who stated that they had never voted in a Scottish Parliamentary election (62%), followed by 19% who sometimes voted and 10% who always voted. 9% stated that they had not been eligible to vote at Scottish Parliament elections before.
The results suggest approximately similar levels of political engagement with regards to voting history across both Local Government and Scottish Parliament elections.
4.3. Registering to vote from prison
Respondents were asked whether they had a received a letter inviting them to register to vote in the 2022 Local Government election. 29% of respondents said they had received a letter inviting them to register to vote, 61% said they had not and 10% stated that they were not sure.
Only 8% of respondents went on to say that they had subsequently registered to vote in the 2022 Local Government election.
As can be seen in figure 7 below when those who didn't register to vote were asked 67% said that they did not know they were eligible to register due to their being sentenced to 12 months or less in prison; 11% were not sure and 22% said that they had been aware that they could register to vote.
This was supported by responses to the free text question.
When asked "Is there anything that would have made it easier to register and/or to cast your vote from prison during your sentence?", a number of prisoners signalled that they were unaware of the fact they were eligible to vote. Some relevant quotes are detailed below:
- "Wasn't informed you could vote from prison"
- "Under the impression that prisoners can't vote, so had no information at all regarding voting. This came as a surprise"
- "I did not know you could vote while doing [your] sentence or on remand"
As can be seen in figure 8 below, when asked whether they felt they had enough information to be able to register to vote while in prison, 75% of respondents felt they did not have enough information, 18% said they had and 7% were not sure.
4.4. Participation in 2022 Local Government elections
Respondents were asked whether they had voted in the 2022 Local Government elections, with 9% stating that they had voted, 84% had not voted and 7% either didn't know or preferred not to say.
As can be seen in figure 10 below, of those who did vote, 83% did so by post, while 17% voted by proxy.
As can be seen in figure 11 below, of those who voted, 63% felt they did not have enough information about candidates and parties to inform how they voted while in prison, 25% were unsure and 13% stated that they felt they had enough information
A free text question asked respondents to provide further detail on how respondents felt about whether they had received enough information to cast their vote informatively. Generally the majority of respondents commenting on this topic felt that they would have appreciated more detailed information on who they were voting for, the respective parties' policies and how this might affect them. Some particularly relevant quotes are detailed below:
- "[I'd like] more information about the parties and their pledges"
- "More information about what I was voting for & what my vote would mean and how it would change things."
- "More info of local candidates so I could make a more knowledgeable vote".
However, it should also be noted that some respondents indicated they chose not to vote, regardless of awareness of their right to register. This suggests that amongst respondents there were varied levels of political engagement and not only those that were interested in voting chose to respond to the survey. Some quotes from respondents of this view are detailed below:
- "I've never voted, probably never will, not interested in governments."
- "I am not interested in voting. I pay no attention to politics."
- "There is no political party worthy of my vote at the moment."
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