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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

We are carrying survey this is completely anonymous research looking at the experiences of the families of IPP prisoners. We do not ask for your name or the name of the person serving an IPP sentence.Why have you been affected by the IPP sentence?


Evidence to Policy

Indeterminate sentencing, injustice and dangerous politics

Dr Harry Annison
Dr Harry Annison
Saw the ongoing issues posed by the indeterminate Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence prompting a number of speeches and reports by concerned policymakers. Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke told the Today Programme that it was "completely unjust" that offenders IPPs were "languishing in jail". Former Justice Secretary Michael Gove stated that “in terms of pure justice and fairness”, many IPP prisoners “should be released”.

The IPP sentence was created by the Labour government in 2003 (and implemented in 2005), intended to target individuals who posed a ‘significant risk of serious harm’ to the public but whose immediate offence did not merit a life sentence. In short, the Home Secretary David Blunkett sought to create a sentence that would only allow those identified as ‘dangerous’ to be released if they were able to demonstrate to the Parole Board that they no longer posed such a risk. If they could not, they would remain imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

Within two years the IPP population had reached 4000; by 2011 it had reached 6000. England and Wales had the dubious honour of holding the most indeterminately-sentenced prisoners of any European nation by a wide margin. Concerns with the IPP sentence mounted, centred upon its contribution to prison overcrowding, the sclerosis in the penal estate (inability of prisoners to access relevant courses, to progress through the estate and so on) and recognition of principled arguments against the sentence.

Having been amended in 2008, the sentence was abolished in 2012. It was accepted by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke that the sentence was fundamentally unfair in principle and unworkable in practice. However, existing IPP prisoners remained: their situation was not addressed by the legislation (the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012).

The challenges posed by the IPP sentence both reflect, and contribute to, broader problems in the penal estate. It can legitimately be argued that we currently face a significant crisis. Self-harm and deaths in prison (both self-inflicted and otherwise) are increasing at an alarming rate. Overcrowding remains endemic. Prison officer numbers have fallen by 30% between 2010 and 2013. Respected Parole Board chairman Professor Nick Hardwick has described the situation as ‘more serious than ever’.

What is to be done?
It appears that the nettle is firmly being grasped by the Parole Board, who anticipate that improvements to their processes may result in 2500 of the remaining 4000 IPP prisoners being released by 2020. To achieve swifter and deeper effects, legislation and policy change by the Ministry of Justice is required. Professor Hardwick has set out a range of plausible options:

1. CONVERSION: Convert all or some IPP sentences to a fixed term sentence with a definite sentence end date
2. SUNSET CLAUSE: Establish a provision to provide that all or some post tariff prisoners must be released no later than a certain date
3. RISK TEST: Reverse the risk test for some or all IPPs so the Parole Board has to demonstrate the prisoners poses a serious risk rather than the prisoners needing to demonstrate that they do not
4. EXECUTIVE RELEASE: Consider using existing powers to release IPP prisoners who have now served more than the current maximum tariff for their sentence
5. SHORT TARIFF IPPs: Reverse the risk test for IPPs with an original tariff of less than two years
6. RECALLS: End the IPP sentence once the Parole Board has decided release and deal with further offences under normal sentencing provisions and limit license periods

Michael Gove has argued that the Justice Secretary should swiftly adopt a form of option 4, releasing the IPP prisoners who are beyond their tariff period and who have now served longer than the maximum possible sentence length for that offence (if they were serving a determinate sentence). This would certainly tackle the pains of the most acutely affected group of individuals.

It is clear that action must be taken. 

While many IPP prisoners have committed serious offences, and are certainly not model citizens (who of us are?), one does not need to look far for evidence of the harm caused by the sentence to families, communities and the prisoners themselves,

(see for example the tireless efforts of the IPP Prisoner Families Campaign). 

Prisoners justifiably complain of the impossibility of readying themselves for a law-abiding life – and demonstrating this to the Parole Board – within an artificial and damaging prison environment. (This is not to mention the enormous difficulties posed to prison governors, prison officers and the Parole Board, and the significant costs involved).

It is equally clear that penal policy is a politically dangerous business. My book Dangerous Politics explores in detail the beliefs and practices of policymakers involved in the creation, contestation, amendment and abolition of the IPP sentence. Policymakers’ fear of taking ‘soft’ action, such as releasing individuals explicitly labelled as ‘dangerous’, was abundantly clear. Ken Clarke’s abolition of the sentence in 2012 demonstrated what strong political leadership in the face of substantial media attacks can achieve. The current Justice Secretary’s failure to defend adequately the judiciary in the face of their disgraceful labelling as ‘Enemies of the People’ by elements of the press does not bode well.

What broader lessons can we take?
At a practical level, the IPP sentence demonstrates the significant challenges faced by the Ministry of Justice to achieve its goal of making “prisons a place of safety and reform”.
More fundamentally, it points to the significant dangers in the Justice Secretary’s view that, “I am not in favour of an arbitrary reduction in the number of prisoners in our prisons. What I am in favour of is reducing reoffending rates so that we stop people revolving through the system and going in and out of prisons.”

Such a view may be politically convenient (avoiding as it does difficult questions around sentencing policy), but conceiving of prisons as the means of achieving reform and redemption obscures (and indeed risks directly countering) the more important role of families, communities, employment and other broader factors in individual’s journeys towards a good life.

In short, efforts to address the crisis engulfing British prisons is welcome and long overdue. Grasping the IPP nettle must be part of this agenda. However, the IPP story is but one demonstration of the harm and unintended consequences that can result from reforms that are predicated on prisons as a public good, rather than as a necessary measure of last resort, to be used sparingly, reluctantly and with clear-eyed recognition of the harms that prison itself causes.

Dr Harry Annison
Harry researches penal policy and in particular has conducted research into the politics and policymaking relating to indeterminate sentences. His book Dangerous Politics, covering this terrain, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015 as part of the Clarendon Studies in Criminology series. He is a Lecturer in Criminal Law and Criminology, and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Criminology, Oxford University.

The IPP prisoner family survey

We are carrying out research looking at the experiences of the families of IPP prisoners. One of us is a researcher who has previously studied and written about the IPP sentence and the other has previously studied and written about the families of prisoners. We have brought our expertise together to look at the specific experiences of IPP family members. As part of this study, we are asking families of IPP prisoners to complete this short anonymous survey. We will also be interviewing some family members and speaking with organisations and people who have been involved with campaigns on the sentence, or supporting families. We would really appreciate your participation in this survey. 
This survey is completely anonymous 
We do not ask for your name or the name of the person serving an IPP sentence. If you think you might be willing to take part in a confidential interview and would like to discuss this further with one of the researchers, please email You can also contact us if you have any questions about the study.

Why have you been affected by the IPP sentence?

How has the IPP sentance affected you and you and close to you?
have you made contact with any other IPP prisoners members? 

Is ther anything else that you think is important for us to understand?

Have you accessed any organisations for support? Have they been helpful?(For example, your local MP; member of the House of Lords; Prison Reform Trust; Howard League; Inside Time; Pact; Partners of Prisoners; or any other organisation.)Have you been involved with any IPP prisoner campaigns?Have you sought support from anywhere else?

Survay Form


Howard League 

What you can do?

From joining as a member and attending our events to following us on social media, there are many ways you can help us to achieve change.

Prisoners and prisoners' families

We offer free membership to prisoners and their families.

1 IPP, What if we rethought parole minutes of ther meeting press on the word podcast to lisen. 2 Press release Martin Jones blogs about the challenges the Parole Board face going forward 3 Chief Inspector highlights prison safety in annual report annual report today (18 July 2017). 4 HM Inspectorate of Probation corporate plan for 2017-2020 has proved an exception, mercifully short and surprisingly jargon-free. 5 The need for trauma-focused care in prison. 6 Mental health in prisons: no strategy; insufficient funds


Howard League for Reform

What if we rethought parole? press on the word podcast  in Yellow to listen

Dear Katherine Gleeson

Thank you for supporting our event at the LSE.  I am pleased to say that the podcast of the event is now available.  Nicola Padfield, the proponent of the idea that we should re-think parole, is now writing a pamphlet taking into account the discussion at the event, which is due to be published by the end of the year.  I will be in touch with you again when we publish it.

Would you join the Howard League, so that we can carry on being an independent voice, being successful at achieving change and being a friend to critical thinking? Please sign up and add your voice today.

With best wishes
Anita Dockley
Research Director
The Howard League for Penal Reform
1 Ardleigh Road
N1 4HS
Tel: 020 7249 7373 Ext. 109
Fax: 020 7249 7788



Press release

The Parole Board faces up to new challenges

Parole Board CEO Martin Jones blogs about the challenges the Parole Board face going forward




Prison reform impossible until jails become safer

By Russell Webster on Jul 18, 2017 12:40 pm

Prison reform will not succeed unless the violence and prevalence of drugs in jail are addressed and prisoners are unlocked for more of the working day.
That is the main conclusion of the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke as he published his annual report today (18 July 2017) based on 86 individual inspection reports on prisons, police custody suites, immigration removal centres and other custodial establishments.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data showed that:
  • in the 12 months to December 2016, there were more than 26,000 assaults, an increase of 27%;
  • during the same period, assaults on staff rose by 38% to 6,844 incidents;
  • of these assaults on staff, 789 were serious, an increase of 26%; and
  • the number of self-inflicted deaths has more than doubled since 2013 and in the 12 months to March 2017, 113 prisoners took their own lives.

Three quarters of inspected prisons sub-standard

Of the 29 local and training prisons inspected during the year, inspectors judged 21 of them to be ‘poor’ or ‘not sufficiently good’ in the area of safety.
Peter Clarke said:
Why have so many of our jails become unsafe? Many of the reasons have been well documented. The prevalence of drugs inside prisons and the seeming inability to keep them out has been a major factor. Debt, bullying and self-segregation by prisoners looking to escape the violence generated by the drugs trade are commonplace. This has all been compounded by staffing levels in many jails that are simply too low to keep order and run a decent regime that allows prisoners to be let out of their cells to get to training and education and have access to basic facilities.
What is it like for prisoners on a day-to-day basis? I have often been appalled by the conditions in which we hold many prisoners. Far too often I have seen men sharing a cell in which they are locked up for as much as 23 hours a day, in which they are required to eat all their meals, and in which there is an unscreened lavatory. On several occasions prisoners have pointed out insect and vermin infestations to me. In many prisons I have seen shower and lavatory facilities that are filthy and dilapidated but with no credible or affordable plans for refurbishment. I have seen many prisoners who are obviously under the influence of drugs.

Particular concerns for young people and children

Some of the most concerning findings during the year came from inspections of the custodial estate for children and young people. In the light of revelations last year about apparent mistreatment of children at Medway Secure Training Centre (STC), the Inspectorate maintained the momentum of inspections at STCs and young offender institutions (YOIs). At that time there were around 609 children held in YOIs and 155 in STCs.
  • Youth Justice Board Annual Statistics for 2015-16 showed self-harm rates at 8.9 incidents per 100 children compared with 4.1 in 2011;
  • assault rates were 18.9 per 100 children compared with 9.7 in 2011;
  • HMI Prisons’ own surveys showed that 46% of boys felt unsafe at their establishment; and
  • the proportion of boys engaged in a job (16%), vocational training (11%) and offending behaviour programmes (16%) across the YOIs was lower in 2015-16 than at any point since 2010-11.
Peter Clarke said:
In early 2017 I felt compelled to bring to the attention of ministers my serious concern about our findings in the youth estate. By February 2017, we concluded that there was not a single establishment that we inspected in England and Wales in which it was safe to hold children and young people.
The speed of decline has been staggering. In 2013-14 we found that nine out of 12 institutions were graded as good or reasonably good for safety. The reasons for this slump in standards are no doubt complex, but need to be understood and addressed as a matter of urgency.
There seems to be something of a vicious circle. Violence leads to a restrictive regime and security measures which in turn frustrate those being held there. We have seen regimes were boys take every meal alone in their cell, where they are locked up for excessive amounts of time, where they do not get enough exercise, education or training, and where there do not appear to be any credible plans to break the cycle of violence.

Other findings

Other key findings from the report include:
  • outcomes for prisoners in the five women’s prisons inspected in 2016-17 were better, with strong outcomes for safety, respect and resettlement, although the incidence of self-inflicted death and self-harm among women has risen dramatically;
  • new psychoactive substances were beginning to have an impact within immigration detention as well as the custodial estate;
  • there had been some improvements in the Rule 35 process, designed to protect those with serious health problems or who had been victims of torture;
  • despite police custody being considerably professionalised in recent years, there needs to be a continuing focus on safety, with still too many deficiencies in the governance of the use of force.


Inspectors found – for the first time – that the number of recommendations that had been fully achieved was lower than the number not achieved. The Chief Inspector expressed his dismay in strong terms:
In many cases the response to previous recommendations has been unforgivably poor.
Given the predictably shocking findings of this annual report, it is perhaps no wonder that the government has abandoned the Prisons and Courts Bill which would have given prison inspectors new powers and required the Justice Secretary to respond to an “urgent notification” of concerns about a particular prison within 28 days setting out:
the actions that the Secretary of State has taken, or proposes to take, in response to the concerns described in the notification.
All prison posts are kindly sponsored by Prison Consultants Limited who offer a complete service from arrest to release for anyone facing prison and their family. Prison Consultants have no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

But the new HM Inspectorate of Probation corporate plan for 2017-2020 

has proved an exception.Mercifully short and surprisingly jargon-free and easy to read, it sets out an important new direction for HMI Probation.

Rating probation services

As regular readers know, HMI Probation has become an increasingly important institution in the aftermath of the government’s partial privatisation of the probation service via its Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) project. The inspectorate has conducted a dozen inspections of public and private probation (National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company) based on Police/Police and Crime Commissioner areas — almost all of which have found the CRCs in particular to be performing poorly. Many in the probation world have been pleased that the Chief Inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, has been prepared to be blunt in her criticisms; stating that supervision by telephone is not acceptable and that new through-the-gate arrangements are having “no impact”.
The greater prominence of the Inspectorate has led to some criticism of its approach; the main ones being:
  • The inspection process is too slow — there is too long a gap between inspections of the same area, especially at a time when the pace of change post-TR is rapid.
  • The number of cases on which inspections are based is rather low allowing questions to be raised about the robustness and reliability of inspectors’ judgments.
  • The process of inspection can be draining on NPS and CRC resources, particularly the latter where the same CRC may be inspected several times since it can comprise as many as four PCC areas.
The corporate plan addresses all of these issues and maps out a clear forward direction:
  • HMIP is developing a national framework for probation standards and will work with commissioners, providers,
    probation professionals, service users to agree quality indicators that will flesh out what good probation practice looks like.
  • HMIP will inspect all probation services annually and inspect CRCs and NPS divisions separately.
  • Critically, HMIP will introducing a rating system and grade probation areas to make them more directly comparable (in the same way as the CQC grades care homes and Ofsted assesses schools). Expect a rating system of the Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, Inadequate type.
  • HMIP will include probation work done in prison as part of its area inspections.
  • HMIP will reduce the burden on providers by using data and information available from providers and HMPPS, so
    that as far as possible, providers are only asked for information once.

Promoting quality

Hearteningly, the purpose of this overhaul is to encourage the delivery of good quality services and the Inspectorate has been talking to the Ministry of Justice to work out how gaining a decent rating from HMI Probation can be incentivised. Presumably these discussions were part of the probation review which I understood to have been more or less ready for publication when the general election got in the way (as it did quite fundamentally for prison reform).

The corporate plan makes it clear that HMIP has secured the extra resources needed for this expansion of its role and that it will be developing standards and new inspection methodologies this year, ready to implement its new approach in Spring 2018.


I have to declare that I am slightly more than an interested bystander as I am a member of the HMI Probation Advisory Group, but I am very heartened by the new approach which, in my opinion, will hold up local probation services to a more rigorous scrutiny and, hopefully, drive many of them to improve current poor practice.
As the corporate plan says, the goal of the new approach is that probation services improve as a result of HMIP inspections:

The need for trauma-focused care in prison