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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Can you please ask Mr Nick Hardwick, Chairman of the Parole Board, to start implementing the changes made on the 22nd of November 2016, which allowed IPP prisoners to be released on the papers.

You have the power, use it!


In the 6-months to date, how many IPPs have actually been released? Can you also ask him to please make sure that those IPPs who meet the release test on the papers are now doing so, otherwise there was no point in asking for this policy if nobody at the Parole Board will actually implement it.
It is time for the Parole Board to actually inform the MoJ that they will, as a matter of policy, be releasing IPPs who are 1) in open conditions, 2) are ROTL cleared, 3) are staying at Approved Premises once a month, 4) have exemplary reports, 5) have completed their sentence plans. It is pointless to make them wait for oral hearings if the release test is obviously met.
The Parole Board have asked for this policy for years, now they have it. Please do not offer us another betrayal.

The Parole Board responds

Nick Hardwick has addressed these points in his update, which you can find on page 32. In summary, the Parole Board has released over 900 IPP prisoners in the year 2016/17, which represented 46% of all IPP cases considered, and recommended a further 468 for open conditions. Where an IPP meets the test for release, due consideration will be given to a release on the papers, but a significant number of cases will still require an oral hearing. 

“The Parole Board understands and appreciates the frustrations experienced by prisoners waiting to have their case heard but could not implement a blanket policy of releasing on the papers an IPP who meets all the criteria mentioned above”

Whilst meeting all these conditions is a very good indicator of positive work, and such prisoners are to be commended for this, the test for release requires a thorough risk assessment in each and every case, and therefore it is not a simple tick box exercise. There are other factors that must be considered, for example opinions of professionals such as psychologists or psychiatrists, hearing evidence from witnesses often provides more detail of how a prisoner will be supervised in the community, the necessity and proportionality of any licence conditions and whether other factors such as social care needs or community programmes are in place. If everything has been thoroughly reported on and all measures are in place to provide comprehensive assurances that risk can be managed, then releasing on the papers without an oral hearing will always be considered. 

If you believe that you are a potential candidate to be released on the papers then you should discuss this with your legal representative and make your case in your representations. We want to assure readers that we will make full use of the policy to release IPPs on the papers where we are satisfied it is safe to do so.

The Parole Board – June 2017

Progress
I aim to provide a regular update from the Parole Board to readers of Inside Time as I know concern about the parole process is a major source of anxiety for many of you. In the last couple of years, backlogs and delays have built up as the number of cases requiring a parole hearing grew, while the number of Parole Board members and our budget fell. I am pleased to say that we have now been able to reverse this but there is still a long way to go. 

We have recruited over 100 new members, taking the total membership to just over 250, and we are now training them so they are ready to conduct hearings. We have won the argument for a bigger budget and as long as this remains we will continue to be able to make progress.

As at 31 March 2017
  • The backlog of outstanding cases was down to 2033 from a high of 3163 in January 2015.
  • The number of cases delayed by more than 90 days waiting for an oral hearing date was down to 301 from 547 in January 2015.
  • 48% of all oral hearing decisions were for release and 17% were for a progressive move to open conditions.
IPP Prisoners
We aim to answer all letters from you promptly and we will respond to some of the questions and comments that we think would be of most interest to other prisoners here. You can write to us directly at the Parole Board or via Inside Time. We will keep your identity private in any response we make.
Two very good questions have been sent to Inside Time about IPP prisoners:
When will the changes made on the 22 November 2016, which allows IPP prisoners to be released on the papers be implemented?

The new Parole Board Rules came into effect on 22 November 2016. These new Rules gave us the power to release prisoners sentenced to an Imprisonment or Detention for Public Protection sentence (IPP/DPP) on the papers (the MCA stage), without the need for an oral hearing. These changes came into effect immediately, however, the numbers affected are likely to be relatively small as most IPP cases will still need an oral hearing to be properly considered. Between 22 November 2016 and 30 April 2017 we have released 15 IPPs “on the papers”.

In addition to these Rule changes, the Parole Board’s Management Committee has agreed that members should also be able to recommend IPPs for a transfer to open conditions on the papers, if eligible under the terms of the referral. Previously members could not recommend open conditions for any prisoners at the MCA stage unless the case was considered exceptional and it was agreed by me as Parole Board Chair. 

These limitations will no longer apply. These changes came into effect for MCA cases with a panel date of 8 March 2017 onwards, and 2 of these recommendations have been made. I will mention here that we can only make a recommendation about a move to open conditions and it is the Secretary of State who will make the final decision.

In the 6 months to date how many IPPs have actually been released?
  •  At the point of its abolition in December 2012 there were 6,080 IPPs in prison. Since that date, the number of IPP prisoners still in prison has fallen by about 40% to 3,528 (as at 31/03/17).
  •  The IPP release rate in 2010/11 was 6% which increased to 46% for 2016/17.
  •  The number of actual IPP prisoners released on an annual basis has increased from 140 in 2010/11 to around 900 in 2016/17 (figures include recalled IPPs).
  •  Over the last twelve months, the Parole Board has also recommended the transfer to open conditions of a further 468 IPP prisoners.
Determinate sentence recalls

Many of you will be aware there has been a steady increase in the number of determinate recall cases progressing to oral hearing, putting huge pressure on our capacity to hear all cases needing an oral hearing in time. Each month we have more cases than we can list and so we have a system in place which prioritises cases – the listing prioritisation framework. Under this system, determinate recall cases are given high priority, meaning many indeterminate sentence prisoners have had to wait longer for their oral hearing. 

We noticed that many of the determinate recall cases in the queue had short periods of time remaining before they would be released at their sentence expiry date (SED), with around 45% reaching automatic release within 24 weeks. Many of these were getting released before the date of the oral hearing, resulting in a wasted slot which could have been used for another prisoner.

” I am committed to ensuring we work towards a system that gets all prisoners who need an oral hearing a confirmed date as quickly as possible “

We felt that this was not being as fair as possible and so we looked at different ways of listing cases to make the most effective use of all the oral hearing slots we had. We ran a pilot to implement a “cut-off” point for any determinate recall case with an SED within 24 weeks. These cases were reviewed “on the papers” but were not put forward for an oral hearing unless there were exceptional circumstances, in which case they were still provided with one of the approximate 200 oral hearing slots allocated each month to determinate prisoners during the pilot.

Alongside this pilot we continued to explore different listing approaches to ensure that wherever possible we are providing fair access to all groups. The success of maximised listings (adding cases if others get deferred), using our video-link and regional court facilities, and of course listing at higher levels, has led to us stopping the 24 week “cut-off” point pilot. We still have our standard practice of the 12 week “cut-off” point, which has been in place for a number of years. We are continuing to review our listing priority framework and will be publishing our future approach later this year.

Parole system

I know that the parole system can seem frustrating and painfully slow for many prisoners and their families and these delays and uncertainties also create anxieties for victims too. I am committed to ensuring we work towards a system that gets all prisoners who need an oral hearing a confirmed date as quickly as possible.

In my last update for Inside Time, I said a little about how to prepare for your parole review and some of the myths about this. We are working with the National Probation Service to follow this up with a series of items on Prison Radio in the autumn with further tips about preparing for your review and working with your Offender Manager. I will provide more information about this in my next Inside Time update.



Is the Parole Board’s change

As many prisoners are now aware, the new Chairman of the Parole Board is the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Professor Nick Hardwick. Mr Hardwick, on taking on his new role, advocated putting the following sensible proposals to Ministers to attempt to reduce the numbers of the 4000 people who are imprisoned for public protection:
• Revising the risk test so that prisoners only continue to be detained if there is evidence they remain a danger to the public.
• Introducing that measure just for ’short tariff’ IPPs – those who received a tariff of two years or less but remain in prison long after their tariff has expired because they are unable to prove their risk has reduced.
• Taking executive action to release IPP prisoners who have now served longer than the maximum current sentence for their offence.


The new Parole Board Rules came into force on 22nd November 2016. The above proposals did not appear in them. Instead we now have a rule where IPP prisoners can be released without the need for an oral hearing. 

This is more likely to happen where all parties recommend release and the case is clearly suitable for such a direction. It will be considered by a single member of the Parole Board who simply examines the reports and any written representations to assist them in making their decision. 

Will there be many such decisions for release made on the papers? It seems highly unlikely that a significant number of IPP prisoners will be released this way. One experienced Panel Chair recently told me that he would be far from confident about directing the release of someone who had previously been considered ‘dangerous’ by a court, without having met the person and conducted a thorough risk assessment.

 Parole Board Panel Chairs can face disciplinary action if an unacceptable number of prisoners whom they have released commit further serious offences, so it is perhaps understandable that they would be cautious about doing so.

Also, imposed in the interests of ‘reducing delays’, something to watch out for is a new rule that one can only have a seven-day extension to the deadline to submit written representations to the Parole Board. This applies even where a prisoner did not receive their dossier and has therefore been unable to comment on the unseen reports within it. Again, we believe that this cannot be lawful, for obvious reasons. A judicial review beckons and it is to be hoped that we will return to being able to submit representations within a month of receipt of the dossier.

A measure that also causes us concern is the fact that the Parole Board panel members have received guidance which indicates that any SARN report or DARNA report (completed after sex offender and domestic violence programmes respectively) will take at least six months to complete. 

This has led to a number of prisoners being refused oral hearings, even where they have completed or are about to complete the last offending behaviour programme on their sentence plan. We have received advice that we should challenge this policy and have done so. 

This is a particularly odd policy, given that we know of several prisoners who have had the above reports completed within two or three months of completing the course and getting an eighteen month ‘knockback’ to sit in custody doing nothing constructive cannot assist in reducing the number of prisoners in custody.

The drive to reduce delays and present the Parole Board as a court in its own right is not proving to be as beneficial as had been hoped when the highly-respected Professor Hardwick became its Chairman. We hope that our forthcoming court proceedings will prompt a move towards getting people out of prison rather than rushed half measures which are simply pushed through to cut costs at the expense of prisoners’ freedom.



The new Parole Board Rules came into force on 22nd November 2016. The above proposals did not appear in them. Instead we now have a rule where IPP prisoners can be released without the need for an oral hearing. This is more likely to happen where all parties recommend release and the case is clearly suitable for such a direction. It will be considered by a single member of the Parole Board who simply examines the reports and any written representations to assist them in making their decision. 

Will there be many such decisions for release made on the papers? It seems highly unlikely that a significant number of IPP prisoners will be released this way. 

One experienced Panel Chair recently told me that he would be far from confident about directing the release of someone who had previously been considered ‘dangerous’ by a court, without having met the person and conducted a thorough risk assessment. Parole Board Panel Chairs can face disciplinary action if an unacceptable number of prisoners whom they have released commit further serious offences, so it is perhaps understandable that they would be cautious about doing so.

Also, imposed in the interests of ‘reducing delays’, something to watch out for is a new rule that one can only have a seven-day extension to the deadline to submit written representations to the Parole Board. This applies even where a prisoner did not receive their dossier and has therefore been unable to comment on the unseen reports within it. Again, we believe that this cannot be lawful, for obvious reasons. A judicial review beckons and it is to be hoped that we will return to being able to submit representations within a month of receipt of the dossier.

A measure that also causes us concern is the fact that the Parole Board panel members have received guidance which indicates that any SARN report or DARNA report (completed after sex offender and domestic violence programmes respectively) will take at least six months to complete.

This has led to a number of prisoners being refused oral hearings, even where they have completed or are about to complete the last offending behaviour programme on their sentence plan. We have received advice that we should challenge this policy and have done so. This is a particularly odd policy, given that we know of several prisoners who have had the above reports completed within two or three months of completing the course and getting an eighteen month ‘knockback’ to sit in custody doing nothing constructive cannot assist in reducing the number of prisoners in custody.

The drive to reduce delays and present the Parole Board as a court in its own right is not proving to be as beneficial as had been hoped when the highly-respected Professor Hardwick became its Chairman. We hope that our forthcoming court proceedings will prompt a move towards getting people out of prison rather than rushed half measures which are simply pushed through to cut costs at the expense of prisoners’ freedom.



  http://www.insidetime.org/is-the-parole-boards-change/
 http://www.insidetime.org/you-have-the-power-use-it/
 http://www.insidetime.org/the-parole-board-june-2017/

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