Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, government ministers reluctantly proposed allowing prisoners serving less than four years the vote. However, the government is now seeeking to limit the right to vote to those serving sentences of less than one year.
The initial proposal faced strong opposition from Conservative MPs and the Prime Minister is now thought to accept that the Commons is unlikely to vote for a proposal that could involve granting the vote to up to 28,000 prisoners, including 6,000 jailed for violent crime, more than 1,700 sex offenders, more than 4,000 burglars and 4,300 imprisoned for drug offences.
A Downing Street spokesman said the government wanted "to ensure that the minimum number of prisoners get the vote". He added that a statement would be made "in due course".
The Prison Reform Trust director, Juliet Lyon said:"Morally, by establishing the right to vote we are recognising that people sent to custody must lose their liberty, but not their identity.
"It is no surprise that prison governors and senior officials in the prison service see voting as an ordinary part of resettlement and rehabilitation.
"Enfranchising prisoners would provide an opportunity for the coalition government to catch up with most other European countries where prisoners are able to vote."
She continued, "The UK's blanket ban is out of place in a modern prison system, and should be overturned without further fuss or delay." She said the professionals running the penal system now felt it was time to enfranchise convicts.
"It's been described as 'nasty medicine'," she commented, "when it should be seen as people taking responsibility."