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Publications · International issues, Prisons, Sentencing and the law

Faint Hope: What to do about long sentences

This briefing paper shows that there are lessons to be learned from the way other jurisdictions approach long-term imprisonment. In particular, it examines prison systems in Canada, Portugal and the Netherlands.

  • ISBN: 978-1-911114-01-7

  • Published: 2016

  • Pages: 6

  • Publisher: The Howard League for Penal Reform


Faint Hope: What to do about long sentences References

More people are serving indeterminate prison sentences in England and Wales than in the other 46 countries in the Council of Europe combined. Almost 12,000 prisoners are serving either a life sentence or an Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection (IPP) – a rise of more than 250 per cent since 2001.

As the number of people serving open-ended sentences has increased, so too has the length of time they spend in prison.

Most people spend many years in prison beyond the minimum tariff length set by the court.

The paper calls for an overhaul of recall policy and the reversal of sentence inflation. It also recommends the introduction of a ‘faint hope’ law that would enable people sentenced to an indeterminate term, who had made an exceptional effort, to apply for earlier parole eligibility.


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