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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Court of Appeal to hear charities’ challenge to legal aid cuts for prisoners

Case: R (Howard League for Penal Reform and Prisoners’ Advice Service) v Lord Chancellor
Where: Court of Appeal, London
When: 2pm on Tuesday 31 January
Cuts to legal aid for prisoners are unfair and unlawful, and have coincided with a deterioration in safety in prisons across England and Wales, the Court of Appeal will hear in the course of a two-day hearing next week (Tuesday 31 January)., three Court of Appeal judges will finally hear the charities’ full arguments challenging the cuts.

The two charities – the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service (PAS) – won the right to challenge the government’s decision to cut legal aid for prisoners, including children back in July 2015,

Since the cuts came into force back in  Dec2013, violence and self-injury in prisons have risen to record levels. Almost 300 people have lost their lives through suicide.
More prisoners than ever before have called the Howard League and PAS to seek help. Calls to the two charities’ advice lines have increased by almost 50 per cent since the cuts were imposed.
The impact of the policy has been far-reaching:
  • It means that a prisoner who is being considered for transfer to an open prison, but not release, cannot get legal representation unless they pay
  • It means that prisoners who are stuck in the system cannot get legal help to access the courses they need to become safe for release
The claimants’ skeleton argument in the case contends that: “Within the prison population are some of the most vulnerable members of society. There is a huge over-representation of the mentally unwell, those suffering from learning or other disability and the illiterate.

Katherine Gleeson Founder of Dyslexia increase awareness

"Those with Dyslexia are Let down by the schools system  that Teaches  a one way or no way  fits all education system .Then you cant be surprised they can get caught up in the criminal justice system that fails them again " 


“For a proportion of those prisoners the removal of legal aid makes it impossible for them to engage fairly in decision making processes that will have a huge impact on their lives, rendering those decision making processes inherently unfair.”
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “At a time when prisons are out of control, access to justice is more important than ever.
“We currently have a situation where a child or mentally ill person can be denied the option of asking for funded representation, even when they are struggling to progress through the convoluted prison system. This is unjust and must be challenged.”
Deborah Russo, Joint Managing Solicitor of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: “We are finally before the Court of Appeal on this important case and sincerely hope the Court will be able to see the plight of prisoners and how these swingeing cuts have so severely curtailed their ability to access justice.”


Unsafe Prison's

There has been a dramatic decline in standards and this has  brought rise in a numbers unsafe prison's. Inspections found that outcomes for prisoners safety was poor in many prisons. There is  various explanations, such as the  the impact of reductions in staff numbers and the IPP Prisoner and a changing  population. However, in practice,  there had been far too little detailed analysis of trends, root causes or intelligence. in practice it also comes down to problems the   security-related information reports undermined any practical active way to address the issues.

Model,s were not  fully acted on leading to a direct impact on the ability of prisoners to access activities, learning and training .  offender supervisors   contact with prisoners was severely limited. Delays in processing release plans  Most prisoners  not having an up-to-date offender assessment system (OASys) assessment. Many prisoners were denied the opportunity to progress. There was a clear need for the leadership of the prison and get a grip of the problems facing them and move away from merely reacting to events.Of course staff shortages have had an impact on many areas of service delivery however poor response and lack of  deadline and  inspection recommendation not acted on HAS seriously resulted in the  unsafe prison stands standards
who was accountable  of the impact of benchmarking staff shortages?certainly the case that staff shortages contributed to the restricted restricted regime that we have now. prison need to develop plans to address the  greatest challenge and accept charges for there failings.


prisoner has recently sent me in writing his permission for me to share his life story to whoever may be able to help him). I believe, that if the IPP prisoners were all paroled out immediately if they have exceeded the initial tariff then it would be tantamount to the Government admitting the initial sentence, passed into law by Blunkett when Blair was PM, was inhumane and wrong then the Government would be found liable for massive compensation. This is why the prisoners have been abandoned. It is taking up so much of the Parole Boards time to review them each year and also to stage oral hearings - but they are 'voluntary' and cheaper for the Government than paying out for a legal action.


Point regarding release of safe ipp prisoners noted. However, the parol board are far from independent particularly as they rely hand and foot on being spoon fed information about the prisoner by the prison system, namely prison psychologist. This as a consequence influences OM and OS recommendations for the prisoner. Risk assessments on ipp prisoners generally tend to nit pick and find petty faults, when In fact post tariff detention/imprisonment is strictly reserved for protecting the public against commission of further specified offences. In Robert's (2016) lord justice Thomas clearly expressed in his judgement that the government could invoke provisions in LASPO 2012 that will allow them sentence conversation for ipp prisoners without offending the rule of law. What do you think of that? 
 my friend,  was born and brought up, put in care and then arrested and convicted. He has been in at least 8 prisons in the 12 years he has been in jail and is currently in the Norfolk area.I am now living in the suburbs of Birmingham, so if any of these locations are useful now or in the future I would be pleased to assist. We have written to various MPs and Home Secretaries over the years
Yes my brother has been ipp almost 10 yrs after only getting a recommendation of 5 only, he behaved & complied with all he had too now he's suffering from major depression because he can't get out. Our father died last year & this has affected him so much .

my son who has been in prison for nearly 10 and a half years on ipp he never hurt or wounded anyone he did threaten they could not interview him for two days he was that out of it .my son he got so frustrated being told he was a danger to the public

Dear Katherine
But why are you in support of the IPP situation? Has someone you care about been affected?I really would like to understand why you have given heart and dedication to the IPP situation; and I don't make judgement, I just would like to see your reasons as then I'd understand better. I'm kind of odd really; I like to know the energy that I am prepared to freely give is being given because its time to let that which is be as it should be. Again I can't just explain, far too much to explain anyway..
How did you get to be in these meetings? What is it that you do that enables you to get to such high places? And again I only ask as its important for me to understand the bigger picture.

Best wishes


Im a foster carer for a young man who was given an IPP sentence at 17 and is still in prison at 27. He was in care from 2yrs and had a failed adoption at 8yrs. I would be happy to talk to the media.

Friday, 27 January 2017

IPP. In a nine-day diary — one officer reported , self-harm and suicide of prisoners happened every day except one. Futher MP Victoria Prentis said veteran and women also IPP prisoners that had low reoffending rates and should be considered for early release to reduce the prison population

           Impossible’ pressures causing rise in suicides

PRISON officers spoke of their sorrow yesterday as they remembered colleagues who had taken their own lives due to high stress levels at work.

Suicide and mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism and depression are in direct correlation with work misery, officers said, and also contribute to relationship breakdowns and social isolation.

HMP Wayland delegate Michelle Atkins addressed the Prison Officers Association (POA) annual conference to commemorate a colleague who had killed himself before last Christmas.
She said she was “absolutely sure” the tragedy had been caused by stress as her co-worker had been open in talking about his troubles and the extremely poor work conditions they endured.

Another delegate spoke of the suicide of a female officer which was attributed to long hours and prison pressures caused by low-staff numbers.

The link between work stress and poor mental health has been highlighted by an independent health and wellbeing survey carried out by the University of Bedfordshire.

Dr Gail Kinman, who led the research, said that conclusions drawn from the 1,680 responses from prison officers in England and Wales had been “really worrying.

” None of the six Health & Safety Executive management standards were met, according to the survey, which was published to coincide with mental health awareness week.

Only 10 per cent of the officers felt they had sufficient backing from their own managers after suffering prisoners’ verbal and physical abuse, it also revealed. Stigma could also prevent officers from sharing their worries as “stress is like this dirty word,” Dr Kinman said.

In a nine-day diary — involving seven consecutive 11-hour shifts — one officer reported , self-harm and suicide of prisoners happened every day except one.

A disturbing 84 per cent of respondents said that they felt pressured to go to work when ill, with governors “constantly” calling sick officers, even on the first day of bed rest, to ask when they would return. “This is one of the most important findings of the survey,”

Dr Kinman said.And in a wretched testament to the toll that overcrowded and understaffed prisons have taken on workers, the average life expectancy after retirement was found to be only 18 months.
Three-quarters of those surveyed admitted fears over whether they would be able to carry out their role and receive full pensions by reaching retirement age, currently set at 68.

Andy Hamlin, a delegate from HMP Elmley, said that “employers do not give a rat’s backside about our health and wellbeing.” 

Prison officer numbers were cut by 41 per cent during the five-year Conservative-led coalition and the POA fears that the dire situation will get even worse under an even crueller Tory majority government.
Joe Simpson, of the POA national executive council, urged delegates to download the report to send to their MPs.He said: “We want to live in dignity and decency after much hard work in public service.


 Liz Truss never answers the questions because she does not have the answer. Her plan is i hope what I will offer will work out in  months?  in fact it likely to take  years .  only doing what the other did  before her  little but talk. The amount of officers  and money mentioned is  Laughable.
Mine was one of the  lucky ones who was found in time, cut down and revived, doesn't mean I don't still live in fear but I'm getting him back on track slowly, his I believe was one of the occasions in March 2016, it's disturbing seeing this, especially sexual assaults, stabs/gunshots?? Traumatic injuries and it seems it's a daily occurrence too! And this is just one prison!
The biggest question puzzling me of liz trusses proposal of 1.6 billion (or whatever it is!) for brand new bigger where is she going to pull all these extra officers,from to run them??... Her ar.. maybe where she pulls all her other "good ideas" from! Has somebody not told the poor woman we don't have enough as it is!! If it wasn't so serious I'd have to laugh at the stupidity!! Someone with half a brain please stand up.
I  have the Freedom of information request on call outs to East England ambulance service to hmp wayland from 2011- March 2016! Sad to see my partners suicide attempt on the list below.Ambulance called outs to Wayland  Prison  demonstrating the bigger picture.



Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said veteran and women prisoners had low reoffending rates and should be considered for early release to reduce the prison population
The Justice Select Committee member made the comments in a debate on the prison population, which has nearly doubled since the 1980s to 85,000.
But she admitted the proposal was just "tinkering around the edges".
The Banbury MP member added Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) prisoners - who remain in prison for public safety - could also be released.

'Shift sentencing framework'

In the Commons debate on Wednesday, she said: "Women prisoners and veterans have very low reoffending rates. But this is tinkering around the edges of the large prison population at the moment."
In November last year Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled a White Paper detailing £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, and plans for 2,100 extra officers.
But some high-profile prison riots in HMP Birmingham, Bedford and Lewes towards the end of 2016 led the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards to claim low staffing levels had contributed to the disruption.
Ms Prentis added: "If we can't recruit, as I accept the department is trying desperately hard to do, would the minister commit today to at least considering whether we should have a shift in the sentencing framework, a shift... to community-based alternatives?"
Prisons minister Sam Gyimah, responding to a range of points at the end of the debate, said: "It is incredibly simplistic to say that the problems in our prisons are simply due to staffing.
Our prisons have changed and to deal with that complex problem, we need a multifaceted set of answers. That is what this Government is not delivering." 


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Thank you for writing in with your comments on the IPP sentance


Last Name:  Jez         
Hi Katherine, 

Hope your doing ok. My friend has had her parole hearing deferred for a second time for the same reason. Outside probation haven't done a risk assessment. Poor girl is pulling her hair out.

I really don't see how people cope on this IPP. Persecution is the only word that fits the description of what they are going through.

It appears that probation aren't willing to commit to taking these people on and are using stalling tactics., causing the subject and their family yet me stress and anxiety 😢 Katherine, you are a tower of strength to so many. Where you get all the energy to do so much is beyond me. You are a princess in a world full of dragons.



Hi Jez, it saddens as I am hearing this across the board from  families moreover  hundreds of inmates  stating the same in there letters, Something must be done, as it is oversight of a bigger problem.

Last Name:  
Hi i am on a ipp sentence and will have been out for 3 years on the 17th of February. The main issue I face today is actually the uneducated probation officers I face weekly on the outside. In my eyes I got treated better and for fairly on the inside and received greater support on the inside than I do today. Now I have been homeless for nearly 6 months with very little to no support from a service that I'm supposed to on release. Like I said above my offender manager doesn't even understand the sentence I'm on, or the licence. Every time I manage to find work they want the details so they can confirm the job which I then lose because of them doing so. I've received no rehabilitation from them and do everything I can in life to move on from this way of life with no change in the way I am treated by them. The last 6 months have been by far some of the hardest months I've had to live but I still have not gone back to the way of life  that got me this sentence in the first place.
My question is after jumping through all the hurdles to get released and all the hurdles since being released why aren't I being treated any different from the day I got released. I was 15 when I got this sentence and now I'm coming up 24 and the only change in my life is the changes I have made to my attitude and my behaviour with very little help from the system.
He now how am I expected to move onto a different path of life in general when services such as probation constantly drag me back down to where I was to begin with. Every week when I leave that building is anger and content to a system that has continually failed me since I was 8 years old. Some advice would be much appreciated as to be honest jail was easy compared to the problemsender I facING at the moment. Thanks


Thank you for writing in joe . i am sorry to hear of your situation, did you not get a  social worker?
It is clear to me that probation and the social services have let you down ,  you should not be on the  streets.
I would go and seek support in these areas: Council and social services and if  probation has broken down then i would  phone the  prison & probation Ombudsman for further advice on your situation.
It is clear to me that probation and the social services have let you down and you should not be on the  streets. I would go and seek help from council and social services  if probation has broken down then phone the  prison & probation Ombudsman for further advice.

Probation is a huge problem and I brought issues up at the meeting with  Nick Hardwick. He stated he would make a lot of changes in this area.  I want to see these changes more transparent .
Still it is  made very difficult  for many to access services additionally when they keep changing the officers and more difficult if you get an officer that picks on you and makes life impossible. Red tape which does not make it easy to complain, a good reason why they are in failing.
From time to time there is a probation officer who is not doing his job. If you find yourself facing a probation officer who is not doing what he is supposed to do, you need to understand what steps to take to deal with your situation.

Prepare Complaint

Many probation offices provide a person wanting to lodge a complaint with a standardized form to use. So before you do anything about the probation officer who isn't doing his job, ask your probation office if there is such a document.
if no such document is available--prepare a detailed report or complaint show why you feel the probation officer is not doing her job. Do not merely make opinionated statements; instead, list specific facts that support your contention that the probation officer is not doing her job.
Attach any supporting documentation to the complaint to support the specific facts you list. If there are witnesses, get basic statements from them to include with your complaint.
Do not lodge a complaint over the phone.
You report the problem to the immediate supervisor. If no action is taken, then you could go to the supervisor's .

Report to Supervisor

Schedule an in-person meeting with the probation officer's supervisor.
Through a face-to-face meeting, you are better able to present more fully the information concerning the shortcomings of the probation officer's performance. The supervisor will also able to ask you specific questions and clarify points that may confuse her.

The prison and probation Ombudsman

They  can investigate issues about the way you have been treated. This includes decisions and actions (including failures or refusals to act) relating to the management, supervision, care and treatment of those people listed below. You should always complain directly to the provider of the service in the first instance to try to get the problem resolved.
If your complaint is not resolved or you are not happy with the way your complaint is dealt with, then you can submit your complaint to them.

They may be able to look at your complaint if you are:

  • a prisoner serving a prison sentence (including both public and privately run prisons)
  • a prisoner on remand
  • a young person held in a secure training centre or YOI
  • a detainee held in an immigration removal centre
  • under supervision by the probation services (including Community Rehabilitation Companies)
  • living in a probation approved premises
  • complaining about escorts to or from these establishments
  • recently released and complaining about a problem that occurred while you were detained.


Last Name:  Jez         

Dear Katherine,

Well, fwiw, BBC and 38D are all part of distracting people to an early, very boring demise. More worthy talk. Manipulated truth. No action.
Why play the establishment game ?  Ask yourself why you should trust people (who are also oblivious to how they themselves are being exploited by the money men who actually call the shots in the UK) ! !

Suggest (hard to find) sensible, 200% sincere human rights lawyer - pro bono - head for the European Court. Phillip Sands QC a good place to start (but poss too much of a celebrity by now ! ! Ditto Mansfield. Ditto Helena Kennedy.) 
Pressure on “Liberty”, are they really doing what it says on the tin ? !
For me, not playing the game means directly approaching ECHR. Not being drawn into the mindless and intentionally wearying ‘globally envied’ UK only-for-the-rich system.

I would also be looking at a very satirical but totally shaming campaign (belonging to you not 38D not BBC) via  ‘twatter’ and ‘arsebook’. 
Use the enemy to metaphorically squash itself ?

(Reality. We’re governed by the morally corrupt (Bentham ?) who think revenge/ignoring poverty and blindness to mental health buys votes and gives them highly paid jobs; an excuse for a nation poorly served by a mostly supine, complacent judiciary. Reflect on the metaphor of  “Les Miserables" ?)

Otherwise, best of luck going round in circles with most UK media who, in fact, are a major part of the problem. And only as independent as they want you to believe.
Also, dare I say, what about the toll suffered personally by you ?  How will BBC help you with that ?

A tiny glimmer of hope for you. Action is better than talk.
p.s. 38D, in fact, far more concerned about pet hamsters and food additives than they are about achieving a truly fair, democratic system ! ! !
Yes. Please take care of the toll on you (costs and ‘notional’ costs/stress built in to the ‘system’ to deter change for the good of course ! The patriarchy never wants to be shown to be wrong ! !).
(a) Suggest direct approach by (old fashioned) letter. e.g. Phillip Sands or even Michael Zander (legal academics) may invite students to have a look for you.Does require ‘robust’; also rattling cages. 
Beware of empty promises, weasel words. . . .  my (similar) interest area (parental alienation - stockholm - bullying of children by a parent - institutional incompetence)
. . . . very senior writer/journalist; also another academic,  “yes yes yes ! ! “  .  (Read Kafka; The Tria if you haven't already.)Often ‘establishment’ individuals are frightened to go against the system. The repercussions on their ‘legacy’ ! ! ! 

(b) Psychology/philosophy; The Prince. . . . . subtle, masked shaming of the ‘great-talkers-yet-‘do-nothings’. Shame into helping. Would be very helpful to harness the power certain individuals still possess. Names to think about ?   Starmer. Stephen Sedley. Ken Clark. Carlile/Berriew (poss too grand too status quo ?)
Asking people to put ‘money’ where mouth is. . . . deeds not words. ‘Diagonal’ often better than ‘head-on’.

(c) Sometimes ‘jurisprudence’ (because an monolithic, mindless system for bureaucrats rather than victims) practicalities mean ‘guerrilla’ shaming/irony via fb or twatter. More or less ‘cost-free’.   e.g. Planning my current shaming by posting video say on fb then tweet the link naming the offender (here, NZP and politicians.
Turning oneself into what Private Eye (Paul Foot) used to do when outing crooks and unfairness.

What does it say about the UK ?  When Gove, stooge formerly in charge of MOJ is portrayed as a floating turd wearing specs in a gurniad cartoon (Trump in the swamp) ! !
Most important of all is that you are not consumed by it (see Kafka).

Sincerely and best of luck,  
Sincerely,    TJ


Thank you TJ, I appreciate you writing to me. I will welcome any other correspondence or support you can add to the site. 
I have previously advertised for human rights lawyer -pro bono - but nothing. However their is  know harm in asking again .
I have felt like putting up my sleepers because I do feel like I am taking one step forward and one step,  Liz Truss  comes to mind.

My daughter was given 4 years IPP when she was 17 she is still in prison and she's 26 

Was min 4 years on ipp been in 6yrs,it was street Robbery no violence used, he was 19 and is 25.he went before the board and again was turned down because he refused to do the same courses that he's already done twice now, was a stupid teenager when he went in now he's a ruined man

S. Bay
I am a mother of an ipp prisoner, who has been in prison for 10 years from the age of 15
Iam a released IPP prisoner serving my sentence in the community on Parole, I served just over 9 years on a 2.5 year tariff



Thursday, 19 January 2017

BuzzFeed News speaks to IPP prisoners loved ones.

Meet The Women Fighting For Prisoners With No Release Date
Almost 4,000 prisoners in England and Wales have indeterminate sentences and don’t know when, or if, they will be released. BuzzFeed News speaks to three women who are fighting for their loved ones to come home.
Martin Stephens was imprisoned almost 13 years ago, after he pleaded guilty to possession of an air rifle in public, at the scene of a robbery at a branch of Tesco in north London. No shots were fired.
The men who were charged with the robbery and theft of £580 served less than a year in prison. But Stephens, who was charged with only possession, is still inside. Now 51, he has no set release date, and no immediate prospect of being given one.
Why is he still in jail? Because Stephens was given a sentence of imprisonment for public protection (IPP). He is detained indefinitely unless or until a parole board is satisfied he no longer poses a threat to society.
Stephens’ tariff – the minimum length of time IPP prisoners must serve before they can be released – was one year and 47 days. He has served eight and a half times that. Given that prisoners are typically released after half their sentence, if their behaviour is good, Stephens has served the equivalent of a 26-year sentence.
He had already served 15 years for robbery in an earlier, unrelated incident. Almost half his life has been spent behind bars.
Jacquie Fahy, Stephens’ partner of four years, who is campaigning for his release, says it’s clear he poses no public threat. “The gun wasn’t used, he didn’t make a threat to kill – obviously the security guard was frightened. But it was a petty crime and he didn’t even do [the robbery], they only charged with him with the firearm, not for the robbery,” says Fahy. Yet after repeated parole hearings – which happen only every year or two – Stephens is still in prison.
IPP was brought in by the 2005 Labour government as a way to extend the sentences of some offenders guilty of sexual and violent crimes, and then abolished in 2012 by the Coalition. The chief inspector of prisons, Peter Clarke, last year called the sentences “completely unjust”. But some 3,800 prisoners who were given IPP sentences before 2012 are still stuck with them.
Some 87% of these prisoners have served more than their original tariff and 42% are more than five years over.
In some cases, such as that of Stephens, they could have spent less time in prison if they had been given a determinate sentence for a more severe offence.
“It’s a terrible thing to say, but he should have shot [someone] because he might have got out by now,” says Fahy of Stephens’ actions at that Tesco years ago. “And how can you go around saying things like that?”
BuzzFeed News spoke to Fahy and two other women who have dedicated their lives to getting a firm release date for IPP prisoners. Each of them says the men they are supporting are losing the will to live in the face of endless uncertainty.
Each says they are struggling against an overworked, complicated, and bureaucratic system in which it can take months or even years to secure a parole hearing.
Amid the crisis of violence, understaffing, and drug use plaguing Britain’s jails, these men are held years after they should have been released. If they do get out, they will spend at least 10 years on licence, meaning they can be put back in jail for the smallest of infringements.
Fahy says that she has campaigned so hard on this that Home Office staff know her by name. She has received written replies from a range of politicians who are sympathetic to her position and met with Boris Johnson in his tenure as London mayor to discuss the case. Johnson told her he owned guns himself and had never heard of a case like this. She says Johnson told her, “He would have been better off doing a murder, in terms of the time he’s been in there.”
All three women accept that their loved ones did wrong and owed a debt to society. But they now live with the stress of not knowing when, or even if, these men will be released.
“I’m sorry, it’s just really upsetting. People don’t know how hard it is,” says Fahy. “They’re not getting back to him and he thinks he will never get out. He doesn’t want to live. I’m out here trying to sort things out and getting nowhere.
“And now I’ve got him saying he doesn’t want to live. I’m falling apart myself – he says I’m positive but I’m not really.
“If you murder someone or you’re in there on a sexual assault, at least they get out, which you hear about in the news all the time.”
Nick Hardwick, the head of the parole board in England and Wales, replied to Fahy’s desperate pleas in a letter to say his board took the matter seriously. He said in November last year that the board was seeing 40 prisoners a week and releasing 40% of them; he added that the IPP population had dropped from 6,000 in 2012 to just under 4,000 in late 2016.
Hardwick previously said that 1,500 IPP prisoners would be released by 2020, adding that others should not be released because of the threat they still posed.
Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, last year said progress in releasing the prisoners had been “painfully slow”.
The problem is partly one of resources – the backlog was so great that 100 new parole board members were hired last year – but also policy: The board will only release prisoners who fulfil its criteria for parole, which aren’t made public. A Ministry of Justice briefing paper says that evidence is taken from professional witnesses, such as psychologists.
Government intervention could change this: Former justice secretary Michael Gove has urged the current secretary, Liz Truss, to use her powers of executive clemency to release the 500 IPP prisoners who had served longer than a normal sentence for the same offence.
The families BuzzFeed News spoke to argue that the reality is that petty infringements and a focus on prisoners completing spurious courses contribute to parole being denied.
IPP prisoners often have to complete a series of “offender behaviour courses” to prove their eligibility for release, with names like “Think First and Enhanced Thinking Skills” and “Controlling Anger and Learning To Manage It”. The courses are not compulsory, but failing to attend could affect the risk assessment that parole board decisions are based on.
“At Warren Hill [prison] where he is now, he turns up at these courses and they ask him why he’s there, that he doesn’t need to do it,” says Fahy. “Then he gets upset.”
Fahy told BuzzFeed News course leaders are just as bemused as Stephens about why his attendance is necessary.
Stephens has also had his chances hurt by bad behaviour, some of which was the result of errors by the prison system, says Fahy. He became angry after receiving the drug test result of another prisoner and “told them what he thought of them” and kicked a fence.
The mix-up was accidental, but the damage had been done. The outburst was noted by the parole board. On another occasion, he was denied category D status – effectively “open” prison conditions, where community releases can be arranged – due to what Fahy calls an administrative error.
“People on IPP won’t reoffend [on the outside] but they will in prison, 100%,” she says. “Because if they speak their mind it’s classed as aggression. And then you can’t get out because they count that against you or send you on another course.”
The maximum period between parole hearings is two years and typically they are given every 15 or 16 months. In some cases this period can be shortened if there is evidence the prisoner is making good progress.
Parole decisions can’t be appealed but prisoners can launch a judicial review – but the bar for success on review is very high and all it would achieve is another hearing.
And while the men remain in prison, they experience the difficult conditions of violence, understaffing, and drug use plaguing Britain’s jails.
“Someone died in the cell next to his yesterday. They left them all day in the cell, they had a heart attack. He [Stephens] got all upset about it and was in mental health [treatment] today. He fell out with the screw over it,” says Fahy.
“But how can you physically leave someone in there all day? It would make me go off. He started saying that if they can leave a dead person in there from 8am to about 6pm, if you can’t even move a dead body out of prison, what chance is there of getting out alive?
Susie is obsessed. She researches the law surrounding IPP sentences on a daily basis and stays in touch with a solicitor.
“My brain doesn’t stop going the whole time. If I’m not thinking about him, I’m thinking about ways to help him. And not just him but everybody [on IPP sentences],” she says.
“I feel like I hold the key and his freedom is on my shoulders. I feel like I have the key and I can’t find the lock. It’s somewhere but I don’t know where. But I have to find it.”
Her partner – she asked that he remain anonymous and that BuzzFeed News use only her middle name, for fear of affecting his parole chances – is 31 and has been inside for 11 years. His tariff was two and a half years, for aggravated burglary, yet he spent his entire twenties inside.
The hardest thing for her is how despondent he can be.
“They’ll keep him in there and put him on another course, all of which institutionalises him even more. This guy’s tortured, he’s being mentally tortured. He doesn’t have any hope. His solicitor says he hasn’t come across anyone as hopeless,” she says.
“To be honest with you I’m glad he doesn’t have hope because it’s the only way he is still here. If he hoped for a future, if he prayed for the life he had, if he hoped every time that parole came back and he got knocked back for some stupid nicking [being disciplined for an infringement] he got the year before for something ridiculous, he would be on the road to self-destruction.
“The maximum, very maximum, sentence he could have served for the crime he did was nine years without IPP – and that would have been four and a half custodial and the rest served [in the community] through probation and on a tag. He would have been out and able to move on with his life about a year and a half ago.”
He handed himself into the police and pleaded guilty, but – partly because of a previous offence he committed as an 18-year-old – he was given an IPP.
He was due to have a parole hearing in August 2016, but it was delayed. As Susie puts it, “You’re looking at a six-month sentence just through being on parole delay.”
“I go and see him once a week and I don’t think there’s 30 seconds that goes by where we don’t look at each other and think, ‘One day,’” she says. “And every time I leave I think, ‘One day.’
“I’m jealous of people with husbands inside who just have to wait until 2018. They’re lucky. They don’t have to contact the solicitor every five minutes asking, ‘Will this help? Will this help?’
“I just feel like he’s been screwed over so much, I can’t just leave him and do nothing. But I’ve chosen this.”
Jennifer O’Gorman is campaigning on behalf of Matthew Thomas, 55, who was given a three-year tariff on an IPP sentence in 2010 for attempted grievous bodily harm with intent, in a road-rage incident – a row over a parking space.
Thomas isn’t O’Gorman’s partner but her best friend. She was friends with his wife before she died.
“The judge said that if he was given a determinate sentence he would have given him six years. He’s now done seven and he’s still waiting for review,” she says.
“He was supposed to have a review [hearing] last year and he wasn’t even informed about it; it was just done on paper instead, and it was refused.
“He’s had a lot of misfortune. He went in in 2009 around December, and the following July his wife died of cancer. He had a heart attack the following year, his mother died the year after that. He’s developed lupus since being in prison – a lot of that is stress-related.”

For O’Gorman, the injustice of the situation is almost too much to take. “The fact [is] that the IPP sentence was abolished in 2012, so why would you just leave people languishing in prison with no hope?” she asks.
“But it’s the sheer backlog of it at the moment. Everyone is saying it’s wrong and inhumane but how do you cope with the paperwork?
“This is somebody’s life. A lot of people don’t care, it’s like ‘he’s not on the list [for a parole hearing], just wait for the next one.’ He’s vulnerable in prison because of his health.”
As with many other IPP prisoners, Thomas had previous offences and had been to prison before. And O’Gorman admits that what he did was wrong, but she argues that his debt to society is now paid.
“Obviously, you did the crime, you serve the time. But surely you’ve paid your debt. In Matthew’s case it doesn’t matter what he did in the past. The man he had a fight with wasn’t psychologically damaged or hospitalised.
“He’s done seven years – that’s equivalent to a 14-year sentence for an altercation that any of us could get into.
“Every time I go and see him you feel like you don’t want to leave him there. He’s surrounded by young men who are in and out, in and out and fighting all the time. He’s described it to me like being in a minefield that can go off at any time.
“How do you have hope when you don’t have an end date? That’s the crux of it. He does all this good in prison, he’s a wing rep, he’s an older prisoner rep, he’s a medical prisoner rep, he’s helping people filling in forms who can’t write English, he’s doing victim awareness and talking to people about restorative justice. He’s not a silly man, he’s a very intelligent man. He’s doing all this stuff, but all he wants to do is come home.”
O’Gorman points out that even if Thomas is released, that won’t be the end of it. IPP prisoners are typically released on licence, meaning they are bound by a strict set of rules and close monitoring in the community – any infringement could send them back to jail. For IPP prisoners this arrangement lasts for at least 10 years – unusually long.

“He does think it’s an unfair situation,” she says. “Especially when you consider that when he comes home it’s not really freedom to be on licence. Any misdemeanour, any little thing that causes you to be late for a [probation] meeting, and you’re gone.”
O’Gorman points out that because IPP sentences were given to violent and sexual offenders as well as those in jail for petty crimes, that means there isn’t much sympathy over the issue.
“I think the fact they’ve grouped it all together, with violent crime and sexual crime, that’s made it harder – when it’s paedophiles, people don’t want to know.”
She raises the prospect of a legal challenge from the IPP prisoners “for the years they have lost”, but then adds: “Matthew would say he doesn’t want the money, he just wants his freedom.”
Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told BuzzFeed News: “Open-ended sentences are grossly unfair as they remove hope and clarity.
“Whilst efforts are being made to move people through the prison system more quickly, the problem looming is the fact they will all be subjected to licence for life. People are already being recalled to prison for petty reasons.”
The Howard League says it is working with David Blunkett, the minister who introduced the sentences, to abolish the life licence and replace it with a fixed term of community-based observation and support on release.
The Ministry of Justice said in a statement: “We are working hard to reduce the backlog of cases involving IPP prisoners. We have set up a new unit within the Ministry of Justice to tackle this issue and are working with the Parole Board to improve the efficiency of the process.”
For the families of IPP prisoners, the wait goes on.
“I do believe that people who do something wrong should pay the price,” says O’Gorman, “but we all need an end date, we all need a light at the end of the tunnel.”


BBC Radio are looking to speak to people whose family or friends are serving an IPP sentence