This is the second time federal prisoners have been allowed to vote since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Elections Act in 2002. It had been challenged under the charter of rights by a convicted murderer.
The court said voting could teach inmates democratic values and social responsibility.
Shane Shoemaker, serving a life sentence for first-degree murder at Edmonton Institution, agrees.
He and other inmates at the maximum-security prison have been following the campaign on TV in their cells. There are no election posters on the walls. No candidates have come to door-knock.
"Most guys in prison feel like outcasts. Voting is kind of a big thing," says Shoemaker, 30, who hails from Calgary.
"You feel like you are contributing to society."
Shoemaker, who is into the eighth year of his sentence, says most inmates plan to vote for any party other than the Conservatives.
Prisoners fear the Tories want to make life in prison harsher by taking away comforts such as televisions and stereos, he says. They also believe the Conservatives want to strip them of their right to vote.
"We live in a volatile environment and if they start taking these things away from us, it will just create more problems and tensions."
Under Elections Canada rules, inmates will vote with special ballots inside prisons on Jan. 13, 10 days before the general election. They may vote in the riding where they lived before going to prison, in the riding where a relative lives or where they were convicted.
That's right: prisoners can choose what riding to vote in, but law-abiding folk must vote where they reside.
I wouldn't put it past the Liberals to manipulate the corrections system to squeeze out a few extra votes in close ridings. Prison wardens could be authorized to deny privileges or throw prisoners in solitary for not voting, or at least, not voting the right way. Or promises of early parole and remission of sentence could be offered as inducements.
In any event, it's just as well the Tories aren't getting the prison vote.
We just need to get a few prisoners to endorse the Liberals publicly. After all, some of them will be their future cellmates.