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Monday, 21 August 2017

I prepared my report one year ago and recommended his release and I don't know why he is still in prison"?

Whilst it has been a productive week with the BBC airing the Victoria Derbyshire programme about the harrowing story of James Ward of which his family are going through the sheer anguish of seeing their son and brother being a mentally tortured soul with his merciless prolonged imprisonment under this IPP law and with the real fear that he could end his own life of which his sister rightly speaks the obvious, absolute truth that he should be with his family who can give him the right support and care that he needs with his fragile state of mind yet once again the defiant and ignorant government are still showing no signs of amending this law apart from the very weak and pathetic response of how we now have a specialized unit expediting the progress of IPP prisoners and parole hearings.  

Once again I highly commend Nick Hardwick, Head of Parole Board ,and Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, who speak the truth regards the reality of the situation of the appalling plight of IPP prisoners and Nick Hardwick has addressed the need for the increase rate of Parole Hearings "but what use is this in that when it does comes to a Parole Hearing that the Parole Board are still deferring release because of the pure ineptitude of the Probation Officers and Offending Management Unit (OMU) Officers who are presenting unfounded and falsified recommendations to the Parole Board and are actively hindering the release of IPP prisoners. 

Probation officers are still diminishing their own accountability to make a decision and they are deferring a release of a prisoner by passing the book on to the need of a further psychological assessment or a course to be completed of which they will wait until a parole hearing to suddenly come up with this further need and their recommendation despite a prisoner having already languished in prison for years over tariff.  This remains absolutely diabolical and then the release is deferred yet once again and still the Probation Officers are not held to account.  

I speak from personal experience of my friend who still remains incarcerated after 17 months following a recall under this IPP law and following a catalogue of systematic failings of delayed court cases which then proved his innocence and cancelled then delayed parole hearings that finally when he got his Parole Hearing the Probation officer after 17 months of incarceration suddenly 2 days before the Parole Hearing date did not recommend his release based on some very doubtful psychological report of which she could only send him an extract of it and he doesn't know who it was by and it appears that he has never met this psychologist who was in my mind fed information by the Probation Officer and the Psychologist in the extract does clearly state that this is a hypothesis and that a Therapeutic Course is to be recommended.  
All of this is in stark contrast to a Psychiatrist who sat in the Parole Hearing who clearly said "I don't know what I am doing here, I prepared my report one year ago and recommended his release and I don't know why he is still in prison" with even prisoner officers saying to him I don't know what you are still doing here, the employer of his job that he has in prison actively wanting to employ him on his release, the court reports which were favorable to him and even the OMU initially recommending his release but because my friend had the honesty to say to his Probation Officer following her very intimidating and bullying behaviour towards him that he would find it very difficult to work with her and because of her conduct where she says one thing then another, doesn't turn up for appointments when she said she would and because he has said that he can't trust people in authority of which he has very valid reasons to say this that this has somehow been twisted by the Probation Officer that he has a psychological problem.  

"I am urging any news reporters and journalist who are reading this to investigate the conduct, practice and attitude of Probation Officers and how their practice is hindering and compounding any concerted efforts to address this IPP law and the continued languishing of prisoners in prisons.  I notice that not one Probation Officer or a representative ever speaks out about this inhumane IPP law.  Why???

The Probation Officer and OMU officers have barely seen my friend throughout the 17 months that he has already been imprisoned and yet they then make a recommendation actively ignoring any positive reports.  Probation Officers have been known to recall a prisoner back to prison because of a missed appointment when it was the failings of the Probation services of not giving the appointment in the first place or sent to the wrong address or a person ringing in to say that they can't make an appointment due to a very real life situation but the message doesn't get passed or the Probation Officers' lack of capacity to factor in situations with the Probation Officer always having the fixed mind set that the prisoner is always to blame no matter what because they have totally labelled them as a criminal and a danger to society. 
Probation Officers should be personally held to account and named and shamed for the cost that they are causing to the British Public keeping people or recalling people to be incarcerated unnecessarily in the already overcrowded prisons increasing the workload of Parole Boards further with the need for subsequent Parole Hearings let alone at the unquantifiable personal effect on a prisoner's physical and mental health and well being. 

As it has been said to me Probation Officers will do anything to keep a prisoner in prison but not to let them out and that every single person who has experienced the misconduct of their Probation Officers with their unsubstantiated or falsified reports, bullying or intimidating behaviour, or simply direct administrative failings of the Probation Services which has resulted in a recall or prolonged imprisonment to write in now so that this can investigated and finally exposed to the British Public by the media or press.


By Russell Webster

Prison reform remains the dominant focus for criminal justice. David Lidington reminded people that government hasn't stopped for the summer when he argued for rehabilitation in a piece for the Evening Standard. At the same time Parole Board Chair Nick Hardwick urged the Justice Secretary to act on the continuing scandal of the 3,300 plus IPP prisoners still in custody years after their release dates. Three prison inspection reports were published last night, ranging from the dire (Aylesbury) to the decent (Bure).If you work in probation and are looking for an interesting job, HMI Probation are recruiting 18 assistant inspectors. So where exactly is the Secretary of State? We’ve got a new one, incidentally. You may well have missed that as David Lidington, who replaced Liz Truss at the Ministry of Justice in June’s reshuffle that barely was, has since morphed into the invisible man. He didn’t answer Albutt’s concerns yesterday. It also doesn’t help tackle the problems that Lidington is the fourth minister in two-and-a-half years. 



Regarding the mental health of IPP prisoners as a direct result of overcrowding, staff shortages and failure to provide even basic treatment UK PrisonsI recently read an article in the guardian by  Mary O'Hara: Lesson " lessons to be learned."
"But  really how many lesson do the government  need to learn.
 Mary O'Hara reported the mental health of a  vulnerable 24-year-old from the US who had stood up and spoken in public in a bid to get the help he needed. By giving evidence as part of law suit brought by the  Poverty Law Centre, Wallace highlighted a problem that is too often ignored: any prison system that fails to meet the needs of inmates with mental health problems is indefensibly cruel.
With rates of suicide and self-harm in prisons on the rise in the UK. isn’t it time to pay attention, and demand action?

Last month, in the case for which Wallace had given evidence, the judge ruled that poor mental health provision within the prison system was “systemically” putting inmates’ health and lives at risk. The damning ruling excoriated authorities, citing skyrocketing suicide rates, persistent overcrowding, staff shortages and failure to provide even basic treatment with mentally ill prisoners. Mental health provision was, the judge said, “horrendously inadequate”, and the court ordered the government to take action.

Deaths by suicide in prisons are rapidly increasing in the UK too, where budget cuts and overcrowding are a growing concern. In 2016 the number of people who killed themselves in prison in England and Wales reached a record high when 120 inmates took their own lives, a leap of 32%
And last week, the chief inspector of prisons warned of a “staggering” decline in safety in youth jails, something that undoubtedly puts younger inmates at risk, while a recent National Audit Office report concluded that prisons have “struggled to cope” with surges in self-harm (up by 73% between 2012 and 2016) and suicides. The report also stressed that the government doesn’t know how many inmates have a mental illness, nor how much is being spent on their care. Without the most basic understanding of the challenges, how can appropriate responses be devised, never mind implemented?
much of what has been proposed has been “tinkering”, says Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League.

A Personal Message from the President of the Prison Goveners Association

A Personal Message from the President 

I thought it really important that I write to you about the current crisis in our prisons and acknowledge the unacceptable stress and anxiety you face on a daily basis. I want you to know that the PGA is constantly fighting your corner, escalating all issues up to and including the Secretary of State. The recent increase in concerted indiscipline is of grave concern. The rise in our population, unforeseen by the statisticians in MOJ, has left us with virtually no headroom in prison spaces. This has coincided with summer peak leave period putting further strain on limited staffing resources. I know that governor grades are spending more and more time on landings bolstering numbers so some kind of regime can be delivered. 

The instability we are seeing is clearly linked to a poor regime. Further loss of accommodation, like those lost during the current, ongoing incidents at The Mount over the last couple of days, means drafts of prisoners are being moved across the country, compromising the Families Pathway and de stabilising the receiving prisons as they try to maintain order amongst disaffected displaced men. This toxic mix does not have a quick fix and the future looks like more of the same.

REFORM is the answer to all our woes and wouldn't it be great if that was the case. Members are telling me that they have seen nothing tangible coming out of MOJ to ease the burden to date. The decision to separate policy from operations seems a perverse one and certainly not cost effective when we are given messages that budgets remain very stretched. 

MOJ Prison Reform Programme consists of a Chief Executive Officer, Justin Russell who has a team of around 20 Directors/Deputy Directors, supported by approximately 450 other grades of staff. As the policy leads are predominantly generalist civil servants from other government departments, it leaves a gaping hole in operational knowledge. How has this hole been filled? By taking operational experts (our grades) out of prisons and putting them into MOJ. 

At a time when SMT's in prisons need competence, resilience and stability to deal with the intolerable pressure they are under, we are finding that temporary promotion into SMT's could be as high as 30%. I put this whole argument to Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, last week. His response was less than satisfactory and the example he gave a poor one. He stated he made no -2-apologies for having IT experts working on IT Reform! An example of the madness of the split is recruitment. MOJ deal with all recruitment, up until the point when new staff are booked onto
POELT courses then it is passed over to HMPPS. 

Why? Governor development also sits in MOJ and is headed by people who have absolutely no concept of what being a Governor means and requires; it is so much more than general leadership. The issue of Recruitment remains critical. In the year 16/17 there was a net increase of only 75 prison officers. This year it is ramping up, but with that comes further issues as members tell me that they have concerns about their new recruits. 

They say that the selection process is allowing many unsuitable people through, and the quality of training is poor. It has been said that large numbers of new recruits can actually add to the instability in prisons rather than improve it. I suppose it is understandable that when trying to increase numbers at speed, quality may be compromised. However, the attrition rate is high and increasing, so MOJ and HMPPS need to do something to stop this very expensive recruitment campaign turning into a complete damp squib. Recent media coverage of quarterly statistics show the highest violence ever, this along with concerted indiscipline in our prisons is not an advert to join or stay. Empowerment has yet to gain any traction. The Deregulation Project stuttered and stumbled to a halt and failed totally to release Governors from the bureaucratic chains of 100's of PSI's.

 I understand that it is to be revitalised, so let's hope the review of IEP policy is not the speed of future deregulation. Members are informing us that rather than being enabled to work in an empowered way, they are seeing more assurance and monitoring as they now serve two machines. This is confusing and the rub between both partners is obvious when as a professional association we are required to deal with both. 

Who are the decision makers? This is probably one of the PGA's most asked questions and we still aren't clear! We know many prisons are in crisis and I deliberately use that term, because it can't be dressed up in any other way. We have 40 prisons of concern, 10 of which are very concerning. Of the ones that don't fit this criteria, they are still a distance away from where we were in the Golden Years pre austerity. 

The PGA will continue to voice concern and ramp up pressure on MOJ Prison Reform Programme in particular to start delivering and reacting in a much more timely manner to the situation we are in. That said, I remain firmly of the belief that you cannot separate policy and delivery when dealing with such a complex environment as ours. I will lobby Ministers on this very topic in October when we meet with Sam Gyimah for the first time since the Election. 

Whilst devastated at the complete decline of our Service, in a perverse way, these difficult times are often our finest hour as the total commitment of our members is so obvious when grappling with the day to day trials and tribulations of operational life. We will continue with pride to serve the membership as directed and deliver the very difficult messages you are unable to.
Andrea Albutt.


Biamonti Powerful words from those in the know... let's hope it makes a difference... and we see action!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The headlines tell a dire story about life behind bars for those serving IPP sentences.

"James Ward 'trapped' 10 years into a 10-month jail sentence", BBC News reported back in  May 2016.
 This week, the BBC News headline read "james wards 'suicidal' 11 years into 10-month jail term".
The man in question, James Ward, is serving an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence, meaning he must prove that he's no longer a threat to the public in order to be released.  
It was not violence towards others that led to his indeterminate sentence, but the fact he set fire to his cell mattress in 2006. Ward, who was 19 at the time, was serving a one-year sentence for assaulting his father and, according to his family, was "unable to cope" with prison life
Ward, who now as a result has  mental health problems, was given a minimum tariff of 10 months for his act. More than a decade later, he's still behind bars, unable to meet the threshold required for his release and caught in a cycle of self-harm and depression. 
Ward is not alone. According to the chair of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, there are more than 3,300 people in England and Wales serving IPPs with no release date. The description of Ward's experience, Hardwick told the Guardian, is "happening to hundreds and hundreds". 
Justice for all
IPPs were introduced in 2003 under former home secretary David Blunkett. 
Interpreted by many as an attempt to bolster the Labour government's perceived toughness on crime, IPPs were part of a package of reforms designed to secure "justice for all" – a rebalance required due to the defendant-focused nature of the criminal justice system, said critics at the time.
Stain on the criminal justice system
The reality was considerably different, however.The sentence was "applied far more widely (than envisaged)", says the BBC. Rather than targeting dangerous criminals – increasing the prison population by an estimated 900 people – the sentence was awarded, at its peak, to 6,000 offenders.  
Many of these included "petty arsonists, pub brawlers and street muggers", reports the New Statesman, while an investigation carried out by Vice News found that one person was given an IPP for causing damage to an allotment.
A series of people are subject to IPPs who "[never] posed a danger to anyone – let alone society at large", John Samuels QC, a retired Parole Board judge, told Vice.
Remaining in custody indefinitely can be mentally tortuous.
Research found that people serving IPPs suffer higher rates of self-harm and suicide than the general prison population, which is already facing a mental health crisis
Inmates who are released face at least 10 years on licence and risk being recalled to prison for minor breaches of their parole. This can cast an inescapable shadow. As one IPP convict told the BBC, "if my front door knocks, I'm worried it's going to be someone to take me back to prison".
In 2008, with the pressure of prison overcrowding and financial considerations, IPPs were only applied to serious offences carrying a tariff of more than two years.
In 2012, however, following an unfavourable ruling against the UK in the European Court of Human Rights, the coalition government abolished IPPs.Ken Clarke, then justice secretary, denounced the indefinite sentence as a "stain" on the criminal justice system – one for which IPP inventor Blunkett has since expressed regret.
Despite the move to abolish IPPs, the changes don't apply retrospectively. Inmates already serving IPP sentences, such as Ward, are effectively trapped behind bars, forced to prove they no longer pose a risk to society in order to walk free.
Given that "Parliament agreed get rid of [IPPs] precisely because [they] hadn't worked as anybody intended", "it is quite absurd that there are people who might be there for the rest of their lives", Clarke said last year.
Inmates are often denied access to courses needed to demonstrate their rehabilitation, compounding the injustice, despite a 2012 court ruling.
Justice delayed is justice denied
The Parole Board has released 900 IPP prisoners over the past year – 20 per cent more than in previous years, reports the BBC. But Hardwick insists that ministerial action is required to shift the backlog of cases. He recommends altering the test required for release from: "Is there proof that they're safe?" to the more realistic threshold of: "Is there proof that they're dangerous?"
Peter Clarke, chief inspector of prisons, also concluded that policy change was required, the secretary of state being the "only person who's got the authority to get a grip" on the problem.
The Ministry of Justice lays responsibility at the door of the Parole Board, however, emphasising the need to improve the efficiency of the parole process.
For those inmates saddled with an IPP sentence, the allocation of blame is secondary to finding a resolution. Until then, prisoners like James Ward will be stuck in limbo, his loved ones living in fear of next year's headline.


IPP Prisoner: 'I thought about ending my own life'.

 Lloyd lives his life with an IPP sentence. It means he can be recalled to prison for the smallest offence even after his release.
Shaun says support from his family got him through but as he tells the Today programme the uncertainty has driven some of his friends to suicide.
Video  Video journalist: Claudia Headon and Zoe Conway

Jay Letting them this should be faster why are they saying by 2017 and 2020 move your fingers and open the doors now...let them out and get it sorted they mess about too much and its already been 4 years since it was abolished...why are they still  stuck in 2016 sorry but it makes me mad that they don't rush them through...let some out now nobody would know....I bet we are still here in 2020 talking about it...

Anonymous This should be faster why are they saying by 2017 and 2020 move your fingers and open the doors now...let them out and get it sorted they mess about too much and its already been 4 years since it was abolished...why are they still in stuck in 2016 sorry but it makes me mad that they don't rush them through...let some out now nobody would know....I bet we are still here in 2020 talking about it...