Howard League’s blog · 27 Oct 2017
IPP prisoners are tangled within a Kafka novel
I visited a local prison a couple of weeks ago, and as I always do, I chatted to people I met along the way. One conversation stuck with me and the man has since written to me to tell me his story.
He was sentenced to an IPP in January 2006 with a tariff of 12 months. He was 19 years old.
As he says, he had a few ‘blips’ in his life, with an absent father and a poor relationship with his mother. He had been involved in petty crime and driving offences, hence the low tariff on his IPP. He told me that he is a good decent man who just wants a normal life and has a job and family waiting for him. He says he is sorry about his mistakes and he wishes he could go back and make things right, but he can only change his future, not his past.
He was released but was recalled because he missed appointments with his probation officer. He has now served another two years in prison waiting for another chance at release. He has served 12 years, not the 12 months that the judge indicated was appropriate.
It can take months, or even years, to get re-released
He is not alone, there are hundreds of prisoners serving an IPP who have been recalled for this sort of administrative reason and are then tangled within a Kafka novel. It can take months, or even years, to get re-released. Even then, they may have to start all over again and stay in a hostel, often a drug-ridden and grotty place miles from home or connections. We are getting evidence that it is often staff in the hostels, who do not know the men, who trigger a recall without finding out the reason for the rule-breaking. This is risk-aversion gone mad.
I know the Parole Board is trying to speed up its processes for release and is now doing re-releases on paper without the need to hold a full oral hearing. But, it should not take more than two years to sort out releasing someone. Meanwhile, they are held in a crowded, understaffed prison that has not a single green area and was mostly built two centuries ago, with nothing to do all day, year after year.
The prisons minister was questioned about his plans to resolve the plight of IPPs at the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee. His response did not offer solutions. However, I know that there is work going on, in the Parole Board and the Ministry of Justice, and some imaginative thinking. We cannot wait for legislation, these bodies must get a move on. British justice is in disgrace.