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The Voices of IPPs
User Voice interviewed 111 people subject to the IPP sentence.

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Experiences of IPP

Last week (14 February 2024) User Voice published a new report sharing the voices and experiences of 111 individuals subject to Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences. IPPs are regarded by all political parties and anyone involved with the criminal justice system as unjust and a stain on our justice system. This is the largest study of what people caught up in the nightmare of being an IPP is really like. While the views expressed are not surprising, the individual stories are harrowing to read.

The study

In total, User Voice spoke to 111 people serving IPP sentences that have experience of recall across 11 prison estates. The report sheds light on the experiences of people serving IPP sentences across nine areas of their experience since their most recent recall to prison. For the vast majority of the people interviewed, their experiences across these nine domains has left them “devasted,” “hopeless” and “living in fear.” More than two thirds (69%) of those interviewed had served more than five years over their original tariff before their first release and 13% served more than ten years.

Preparation for release

Two in 3 participants rated the quality of the support they received from prison staff in the preparation for their most recent release as ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor.’ Most described a distinct lack of support in general with specific areas such as support with accommodation, finances, and getting identification as particular areas of failure and were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Conversely, people found real benefit in progressing to a Cat-D prison which helped with the anxiety and stress of transitioning to life on the outside.

Parole hearings

People reported that the Parole Board consistently “move the goalposts” at each parole hearing to avoid releasing those serving IPP sentences which leads to general feelings of pessimism and hopelessness when preparing for and attending parole hearings. They expressed frustration at frequent adjournments and changes in key members of staff.

Release

People serving IPP sentences spend significant periods in prison and therefore often find release to be an overwhelming experience in which adjustment to the outside world is difficult. Interviewees told us of a clear lack of support in adjusting to the outside world.

It is mandatory for people serving IPP sentence to be released to stay at Approved Premises for varying amounts of time upon release. Participants often described the financial burden of Approved Premises and the environment as not conducive to rehabilitation and desistance.

Over half rated the quality of the support they received in the community as ‘Poor’ or ‘Very Poor’ and described a lack of support from probation.

Many people have experienced a revolving door of probation practitioners and therefore have no continuity of support. The ease of recall and subsequent fear of repercussion is a barrier for openness and honesty with probation staff which means people often “suffer in silence.”

People who had a supportive probation practitioner described them as flexible and understanding.

Recall

Three in 4 participants said that they ‘Disagree’ or ‘Strongly Disagree’ that their most recent recall was fair and just. The most common response for why people thought that their most recent recall was unfair and unjust was that they were recalled without being charged for a further offence.

Others stated that they were recalled for “hearsay” and often without any evidence. Other themes included people stating that they were recalled for asking for help and missing appointments.

Recall is devastating for those who have already served many years beyond their original tariff. Many participants stated they have developed various mental health issues since their most recent recall such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Many are now prescribed medication for their mental health that they previously had not needed. Some interviewees reported having self-harmed having suicidal ideations.as a direct result of their most recent recall.

Recall has a significant impact on people serving IPP sentences’ ability to maintain close relationships. Several decided that cutting off ties with loved ones reduced their chances of future recall and the emotional impact on themselves and family members.

Recommendations

The report presents seven recommendations from the people on IPP themselves:

  1. People serving IPP sentences want to be resentenced. They would be happy to sign a waiver to any compensation after being resentenced. People just want their lives back.
  2. Specialised training for prison and probation staff on IPP sentences to increase understanding and provide improved support.
  3. Specific houseblocks/wings for people serving IPP sentences with staff that understand their sentences and how to support them.
  4. Implement a clear progression plan for release for each individual person serving an IPP sentence.
  5. The requirement of staying at approved premises to be removed or the time period shortened.
  6. Better access to mental health services that are tailored to the needs of those serving an IPP sentence.
  7. People serving IPP sentences want to have group forums specifically for people serving IPP sentences where they can share experiences and hear updates from a staff member that is in the know.

 

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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