Prison governors brand controversial sentence 'inhumane'

Robert Verkaik
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:11

A controversial prison sentence used to lock up criminals who may pose a risk to the public has been branded “inhumane and unfair” by prison governors.

In a damning rebuke to Government penal policy Eoin McLennan-Murray, the President of the Prison Governors Association, called on ministers to review the imprisonment for public protection sentence (IPP) which is also blamed for increasing the prison population to record levels in England and Wales.

He said: “Day in and day out, Prison Governors and their staff are placed in the invidious position of having to try and defend the indefensible. There are clearly some prisoners who should be subject to an IPP, but nothing like on the current scale. It is absolutely inhumane and unfair and I am relieved the Government are now reviewing sentencing policy and hopefully this particular sentence will attract their close attention.”

A report by the Prison Reform Trust published today found that since its introduction in 2005, only 94 of the over 6000 prisoners given the IPP sentence have been released. The report, authored by Jessica Jacobson and Mike Hough, suggests that low rates of release are due to a system of “Kafka-esque complexity” and “limited Parole Board capacity”. It also criticises how the lack of available offending behaviour courses leaves prisoners unable to work towards their release.

The Prison Governors Association (PGA) welcomed the report and said their staff can only run well-ordered regimes within prisons with the cooperation of prisoners. “This cooperation is founded upon basic principles of decency, trust and fairness. IPP totally undermines this fundamental principle of fairness for a significant proportion of the 6,000-plus prisoners who are currently serving this sentence,” said the PGA.

“Our prisons are now holding an ever-growing number of prisoners who see themselves as being treated unfairly; who see themselves as being denied the courses and interventions which can address their perceived dangerousness and who see themselves as trapped in a system which is neither resourced nor organised to manage their sentence.”

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