Letter: Problems for prisoners who protest innocence

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Anstey (Letters, 23 June) is right in identifying the dilemma facing prisoners who persist in protesting their innocence. It means, for instance, that Mark Cleary, the subject of last night's Trial and Error programme on Channel 4 - whom we believe to be innocent - is likely to spend more time in prison than the man who accused him but who admitted his guilt.

The Home Office will make its ritual observation that all cases are assessed on their merits, and, to be sure, many prisoners have genuine problems in confronting the enormity of their offending; but anyone who corresponds with prisoners knows that claims of innocence effectively handicap the chances of early release on licence. At Just Television, we have also noted claims by prisoners that appeals to the media are discouraged by those in authority, who make it clear that such action will not be helpful.

This policy means that some prisoners are even undergoing psychosexual counselling - a valuable experience for those who are guilty of sexual crimes but a wretched charade for those who participate in resigned desperation because that is the only way to freedom.

Meanwhile, may I bring to your attention the case of a woman prisoner who has spent her time in custody productively, by studying for further education qualifications. She had a 'knockback' the other day (a refusal of application). The reason? The local review committee thought she should stay in jail so that she could complete her studies.

Yours sincerely,

DAVID JESSEL

Just Television

London, WC1

23 June

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