Following the government’s decision to reject the Justice Select Committee’s recommendation for a resentencing exercise for those serving imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences, Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) have been speaking to IPP prisoners about the impact of this decision, and the sentence itself, on their wellbeing.
Three apparently self-inflicted deaths of people serving IPP sentences have been reported in the four weeks since the government’s decision was announced, a third of the record high number of nine self-inflicted deaths of IPP prisoners in the whole of 2022.
IPP prisoners who spoke to IMBs described increased feelings of hopelessness and frustration following the announcement, which Boards noted was a catalyst for poor mental health, violence and disruptive behaviour.
IMBs across 24 prisons in England and Wales also found that:
- Many IPP prisoners were questioning whether they would ever be released now and were fearful that they would die in prison.
- Progression pathways were poor and unclear, with many being held in inappropriate prisons where they could not access the courses they need for parole and release.
- There was inadequate preparation for release, which could lead to recall to prison: for example, because of issues arising from the loss of accommodation.
Some comments from IPP prisoners:
‘Nothing has changed. Hope kills you. No hope now’.
‘I wake up each day not wanting to be alive, even when I am released I am waiting to come back to prison….my mental health is in bits’.
Dame Anne Owers, National Chair of the IMBs said:
‘For some years now, IMBs have been highlighting their concerns about prisoners still serving IPP sentences, which were abolished over ten years ago, and the difficulties they face in progressing towards release.’
‘This briefing shows that those prisoners’ feelings of hopelessness and frustration have significantly increased following the rejection of the Justice Committee’s recommendation for resentencing, Indeed, there have been three apparently self-inflicted deaths of IPP prisoners in the four weeks since the announcement.’
‘In IMBs’ written evidence to the Committee’s IPP inquiry, I urged the Committee to consider recommending legislation to commute IPP sentences to determinate ones. As the safety, wellbeing and hope of IPP prisoners deteriorates, we consider that a resentencing exercise is still vital.’