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Thursday, 24 November 2016

IPP. Our prisons are broken so is it time to find a new solution?

Last thousands of prison officers engaged in industrial action (or at least that is what critics called it as POs are not actually allowed to strike by law).

The Justice Minister, Liz Truss, is the sixth politician to hold the position, taking over from Michael Gove in Teresa May’s Prime Ministerial reshuffle. None of them have lasted very long:  for Blair’s Labour Charlie Falconer did 3 years, Jack Straw just 2 for Gordon Brown, while Ken Clarke served just over 3 years under Cameron.  Chris Grayling similarly lasted 3 years and Gove barely a year.
This is in the nature of politics – we rarely allow ministers time to understand a role before we move them up or down or on to something else.

More importantly. we might argue,  Liz Truss (like Gove before her) has no experience of the Law, the criminal justice system or of prisons. She is an economist with a recent background at the department of Education and then DEFRA.

But now she is Lord Chancellor of England, an office held by Sir Thomas More, Cardinal Wolsey, and famous legal lords such as Thurlow, Erskine, Lougborough, Eldon, Halbury, Haldane, and Viscount Hailsham. Now I don’t wish to suggest Ms Truss might be out of her comfort zone a little, but surely we might expect that one of the most important offices of state to be run but someone who has some experience in it?
This has been a tricky month for the new Lord Chancellor. As well as the strike-that-wasn’t-a-strike Ms Truss has had to face down criticism after two inmates escaped from Pentonville gaol. This followed the murder (in Pentonville) of Jamal Mamoud who was stabbed with a ‘hunting knife’. 200 officers at Pentonville reacted to the attack by issuing a statement of no confidence in the Governor, Kevin Reilly.
 Assaults on inmates are at record highs, assaults on staff are increasing and recent reports suggest many prisons are now close to being out of control.

In a final piece of bad news for the secretary of state the head of the Prison Inspectorate, Peter Clark, this week told her that ‘it was “completely unjust” that offenders serving Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) terms were “languishing in jail”.
So, our prisons are overcrowded, conditions are appalling and prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day, with little in the way of ‘reform’ or rehabilitation going on.

Meanwhile the tabloid press has been running a series of sensational news stories about the state of discipline and the wide availability of drugs and luxuries in our goals. The picture we have is of a creaking prison service, denuded of staff (after the last administration culled thousands of prison officers). Mr. Gove spoke of making prisons safe and places of reform, Liz Truss seems to want to flip back to seeing them as places of punishment but with continued underfunding they are neither. A spokesperson for the POA (Prison Officers Association) Steve Gillan, said:
“The reality is this government has caused the problem – they’ve cut the staffing levels, they’ve taken so much money out of the system that the system is broken.”
And it’s hard to disagree with him. Let’s take a look back historically to see how this compares with the past, because I believe there are some lessons to be learned here.
It has been 174 years since Pentonville prison opened its cell doors to welcome inmates. It was designed to be England’s first national penitentiary to apply the separate system of prison regime. Prisoners were segregated from each other at all times, kept in solitary confinement and required to wear masks so that identities were unknown and friendships could not be established.

From 1865 the tread wheel and crank broke the spirit of prisoners who were also fed on ‘scientific’ diets designed to almost starve those had just arrived. Plain wooden beds and cold solitary cells, with little exercise helped ensure a lack of sleep and a permanent state of paranoia and confusion. Over the course of the century different forms of hard labour were introduced, as were system of early release and privileges based on a points system. As one contemporary prisoners noted:
‘the English prison is a vast machine in which the inmate counts for nothing at all’.
Prison conditions only really improved in the 1920s when the experience of (often middle-class) men locked up as conscientious objectors to war shocked those that heard about them. Since then a variety of reforms have been tired and have failed, as ministers come and go and politicians try to balance the advice from Prison service staff, the police, judiciary, and charities such as the Howard League with ill-informed critiques offered by the tabloids.

Students who have never been inside a prison frequently tell me they are ‘holiday camps’, that prisoners have it easy, that they shouldn’t have TVs or the opportunity to compete a distance-learning course, or go to a well-equipped gym. This echoes polls amongst the public who react badly to any softening of prison regimes as pandering to the ‘criminal classes’.

The result is the situation we find ourselves in today. When I look at the images published from Guys Marsh gaol (in Dorset) which were described by the Daily Mail as ‘resembling a debauched holiday camp’ what I see is an even older prison than Pentonville. To me the scenes there – where inmates can seemingly act as they wish whilst not be allowed to leave – resemble eighteenth-century Newgate gaol, one of the most notorious prisons in history.

In Newgate condemned men staged mock trials and punished those that broke the set of rules they created. They bought in food and drink (indeed they had a sort of pub on the premises). Their families could visit and even live in if they had the money. There was no work done and precious little education (expect that sometimes the literate ones would teach others basics of handwriting so they might write of appeal against sentences of death).

In an uncanny echo of modern prisoners held under the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) rules (now abolished) many Georgian prisoners were unable to leave prison even after sentence had been completed (or they had been acquitted at trial) because they could not find the money to pay their ‘garnish’ (their fees for being incarcerated).

The eighteenth-century prison was a disorderly place where money and violence ruled and that is what the nineteenth-century prison reformers wanted to change. Liz Truss has also vowed to improve our prisons, just as Ken Clark did, just as Jack Straw did. Just as ALL governments promise.
But just as they have all promised to do so they will fail. They will fail because they won’t spend the money that is required to keep so many people locked up. They will fail because they will not address the causes of crime in the first place.

Ultimately they will fail just as every prison reform has failed because prison doesn’t work.

The public need to be educated to understand that locking up thieves and drug addicts alongside fraudsters, gang members and murderers is not going to lead to fewer criminals in the short or long term.  More ambitious schemes for rehabilitation, for restorative justice, for bringing offenders face-to-face with their victims, these have more chance of making change.

Alongside this we need to change our drug laws – so many of those inside our prisons are there for drug-related crimes. Legalization or decriminalization could drastically reduce the prison population and crime and release the police to deal with other things. One ex-undercover policeman has set up a charity to campaign for this, and he should know the reality that the fight against drugs has been lost.

 Keep prisons for those that need to be locked up for the public’s protection: imprison the violent, the abusers and terrorists. Spend the money (and it is a huge amount of money) on supporting, educating, and properly rehabilitating offenders outside of gaol.

History shows us that chopping and changing ministers and policy means we have no coherent penal policy and that needs to change. I have no beef with Ms Truss as an person but I can’t see how she is qualified to be in charge of prisons and offender management. And in a year or 2 (or 3) she will be gone and someone else will come and start trying their own solution to the problem.

Meanwhile hundreds more will die in gaol by their own hands or those of others, thousands will come and go in the revolving door that is imprisonment, never reformed and possibly made much worse, and dozens of prison officers will be attacked and hundreds demoralized because no one is brave enough to stand up to the press manipulation of public opinion.
Drew Gray (Lecturer in the History of Crime)


Abbott Agree with every single word

Ward Let them IPPs prisons OUT now
Page Let them out
Mccarthy Spot on.
Maybe because they are a job for life, it's all about money, warehousing them and everyone making money out of the misery and the mental torment the prisoner and there families are going through Here all a bunch of bas...ds, And Lizz truss hasn't got a clue, she has the powers to do something about the situation, and she needs to do it now and release all IPPs over tariff, who have served well over there time for there offences most didn't deserve IPP in the first place, the judges abused the IPP sentence, and I believe gave it to the most vulnerable there all nothing but f/king piss takers.
I now wondering how many ppl was sentenced to ipp for pleading not guilty,then being offered a plea bargain at a very late stage or during the trial as I remember this happened to my son they said if he accepts the plea and pleads guilty he will receive a 2yr senence, with no ipp ,if he doesn't he will receive ipp, this is all good and would have been a good offer IF HE was actually guilty, But if he was Not Guilty surely this is blackmailing him to plead guilty to something he hadn't done, proof they don't give a shit innocent or guilty and the TRUTH of a case just doesn't come into it corrupt to the core.I'd say they are abusing the offer of a plea bargain,frightening ppl into pleading guilty,It saves them money,saves them time,they don't have to go through with trial or call witnesses so if they believe a person will accept there offer,they do not prepare for trial,but what happens when a person refuses the offer??and there in middle of trial??nothing ready,nothing prepared they all cover up for each other,and go bent as hell to get that conviction happened in my sons case.They say you have a right to silence, but then when you go No Comment they presume your Guilty, what a messed up system.They use pure Trickery.If he got 4 yrs, he still was sentenced to 8 yrs, my son was sentenced to 8 yrs, which is 4 yrs with ipp added The Reason I'm asking is I'm sure ive read something, that if they make an offer,And it is written on paper, they cant go back on it, maybe an Appeal Ground,but as I say I cant remember it properly but something like that.
Smith i went guilty from da start in police station to threats to kill, had a pre sent report, got a 16 month ipp. nothing ever said aout ipp, i made a phone call its cost nearly 11 years.
Blanko I Pleaded guilty and got 2 year 26 day tariff served nearly 10 years not been cat,d
Ramshaw My son made no comment so presumption of not guilty, got offered plea for affray however it was then withdrawn. He got 4 yes IPP so far served 11 years. The judge said I would normally sentence to 8 years however he got 4 years IPP instead due to teenage criminal record.
Foster My partner went guilty from the start and handed him self in and the judge said he was lucky he went guilty because if he hadn't he would of got a 6 year normal sentence and would of done 3 years but he said as he went guilty he was giving him credit and sentenced him to two year IPP I wish my partner went not guilty he would of been out with only a three year licence .
Picton Il never say being honest is the best again it took years way from marks freedom .
 Foster My partner went guilty from the start and handed him self in and the judge said he was lucky he went guilty because if he hadn't he would of got a 6 year normal sentence and would of done 3 years but he said as he went guilty he was giving him credit and sentenced him to two year ipp I wish my partner went not guilty he would of been out with only a three year licence xx
Owen She must act, if she doesn't she will get an onslaught of boo's in the house soon. She has to maintain her integrity by setting out a process for dealing with it but she better hurry up. She's not paid over 120 grand a year to dither about scribbling in a colouring book. Get on with it Ms Truss. End the persecution of these people and their families!!!!
O'Mahoney It's just as difficult out on probation too. I have been out nearly 4 years and my co-de six and not much has changed. Still treated like we broke the law last week even though it was 11 years ago with a total of 6 years served (1 yr tariff as 19 year olds).
 Pettit About time Liz Truss stop dithering and dealt with this issue. IPPS need stability in their lives,which they cannot get if they are kept hanging on a string as they are..Why should that happen when they have done their time and have paid for it mentally??.
Abbott The longer our loved ones are inside the more money the fat cats make,they want them to kick of there not arsed as long as they are kept inside
Umm You have done a lot more for us ipp families without this group I would have broken down this has helped me to carry on fighting for this ipp fight so let's keep fighting for the injustices.
 Picton freedom x

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