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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

He’s given up… the situation is completely desperate !

IPP – a partner’s story

For those of you who don’t know (and there can’t be many who don’t!), the IPP sentence (Imprisonment for Public Protection) was introduced by former Home Secretary David Blunkett via the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO), in April 2005.  In effect, the IPP sentence is open-ended and the recipient must satisfy certain criteria before being considered for release, i.e. that they have ‘reduced their risk to the public’.
Unfortunately, this sentence has become a bit of a millstone around the neck of the British criminal justice system as it was used far more frequently than was ever envisaged by its architects.  Around four thousand men and women are ‘stuck’ in prison, having received short tariffs, unable to access the courses and programmes they need to prove them fit for release. 

The IPP sentence has caused a logjam in the parole system that is affecting more and more prisoners every day, and is partly responsible for prison overcrowding.
I spoke to Soozy Thom, who has a partner serving an IPP sentence and who is trying to raise awareness around the problem.
Can you tell me a bit about your partner’s situation?
He was given an IPP with a two-year tariff when he was 20-years-old.  He is now 32-years-old, and eight-and-a-half years over his tariff.  He did okay for the first 5 or 6-years, done all his education, gym-courses and all the offending behaviour programmes.  Some of the programmes he did twice, simply because they said he should.  But the knockbacks have taken it out of him.
Was he given any reason for the parole knockbacks?
It’s incredible some of these things that people in authority come out with.  They say he’s institutionalised, can you believe that?  This is coming from the people who have kept him in prison since he was 20-years-old!  They say he does not have a ‘pro-social’ attitude, and that he is aggressive.  Wow, he’s been in an anti-social and aggressive environment for almost a decade, so who’s fault is it that his environment has shaped him?   
He hasn’t had any adjudications for violence or anything serious, but you cannot spend over 8-years in prison without getting IEP warnings, they give them out for petty stuff.  He’s had an IEP warning for wearing flip-flops on the landing amongst other things, all trivial things that would have no bearing on how he would behave in the outside world.  The trouble is, if you don’t just sit back and keep your mouth shut, if you question the authorities in any way they see you as a serial complainer and treat you accordingly.  He hasn’t committed another crime in over 8-years, but the system seems hesitant to progress those with IPP.
Does he have a Parole hearing any time soon?
At the moment his parole hearing is late by over 8-months, but he will still have to go to a D-cat prison before release.  So, that means more delay before he can come home.

How do you feel about that?
Well, the theory of D-cat is great, but it does not match up to the reality.  We know that even if he gets to D-cat it is only a start.  He will have to have a ‘lay-down’ of between 9 and 18-months before they will even consider him for a home visit.  It just seems never-ending.
How is he coping with this?
He’s given up…
How do you mean?
He has decided to live his life and not let it hurt him.  It may sound strange, but being in a position where your hopes are constantly dashed, where you have no hope of freedom, and that’s how he sees it, has kept him alive.  He just goes about his life in prison because that is all he knows now.  If you do not build your hopes up, then the knockbacks can’t hurt as much.  You just shrug and get on with it.  The alternative is frightening, it is a fact that IPP prisoners make up 50% of prison suicides.  The truth is that he is terrified that he’ll just keep getting knocked-back and the constant disappointment will destroy him eventually.
And how does this affect you, it must be hard?
I just think the situation is completely desperate.  It’s a struggle.  I’m constantly writing to people about his plight, constantly reading up on the law and any changes in the law, looking for a loophole or anything that will help us.  I write a blog about this stuff, it helps me to cope, but it can be very emotional.
Has anyone in authority been of help?
My partner has been a big help.  When I have my ‘down’ days it is him who cheers me up. But, as for anyone in authority? No, not really.  I’ve had to do it all myself.  The only people who really understand all this are people who have been through it themselves.  The blog helps, it lets me get things out there. The worst thing has been the attitude and behaviour of the Probation Service.  They seem to think that 2 phone interviews with my partner are enough to judge him and make negative reports.  Also, within OMU, the constantly changing staff do not help.  You cannot build up any kind of relationship when it is someone different every time.   
So, what are your hopes for the future?
We have no idea what might be around the corner, but we do know that it will not be easy. I just want him to come back to a warm, loving home.
Thank you, and good luck to you and your partner.
About the Author

Dying in prison:

The number of women who died in prison in England and Wales reached a record high of 22 last year, and more than half of them took their own lives, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen reported this week.
"Behind the statistics are stories of avoidable tragedy," says Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest.
Most women who end up in prison have experienced a range of problems, such as addiction, mental illness, abusive relationships or homelessness - and if these problems had been addressed, Coles argues, things might have turned out differently.
Here are two of the stories behind the grim statistics of 2016.

Jessica Whitchurch

When she died in May last year she was serving her longest-ever sentence - 16 months for street robbery.
"Jess seemed like she was thinking about the future - when she got out and she wanted to get into counselling," says Beth, who visited her three days before her death.
While in prison she was diagnosed with a personality disorder and severe depression. she also complained that she was being bullied by other inmates, say her siblings. She had been placed on a care plan known as ACCT, used for those thought to be at risk of self-harm or suicide.
When the 31-year-old killed herself she only had two months left to go on her sentence. On 20 May, two days after being rushed to hospital, she was pronounced brain-dead and her life support was turned off.
She left behind a handmade birthday card for one of her nieces and a note that said: "To Em, Beth and Ben - I'm really sorry, I had to do this. Be strong. I'm with mum and dad now."
Jessica was one of three women to kill themselves at Eastwood Park in 2016.
When her siblings saw her body, it was covered with scars resulting from self-harm.
"Jess should not have been in prison, she should have been in a mental health facility," says Emma. "She needed peace. That root of all evil needed to be found, and putting her in prison just tormented her."

By Kirstie Brewer


 Kelly So sad many know how you feel I really don't think Liz truss is qualified to do this job ! Needs someone with a backbone and common sense! The money around £80.000 I a year to keep 1 IPP locked up just let them home with A support worker =£25 per year to help them reintegrate and give the savings to NHS simple makes me so so cross because seems nobody wants to deal with this BIG major injustice unless money is involved .still waiting for my MP and Ministry of Justice to answer my questions from MAY last year. If I had work on my desk not dealt with for that period of time I would have to give very good explanation or be sacked
1 rule for 1 how does that work in LAW ??

Umm Your so right it's so unjust and so very sad we all feel this way and it's not fair that this women allows it as it's like she wants the money instead of doing something about the injustice x
I have now stopped doing anything , as I have realised that there is no point. I know I am going to die in prison.

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