England: Self-harm rates indicate despair amongst IPP prisoners

England: Self-harm rates indicate despair amongst IPP prisoners

People serving an indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP) have one of the highest rates of self-harm in the prison system according to a new report published today by the Prison Reform Trust.

Figures show that for every 1,000 people serving an IPP there were 550 incidents of self-harm. This compares with 324 incidents for people serving a determinate sentence, and is more than twice the rate for people serving life sentences.

Today, over 4,100 people are in prison serving this kind of sentence. This is despite the abolition of the IPP in 2012, following near universal criticism of the sentence from judges, Parole Board members, HM Prisons Inspectorate, the Prison Governors’ Association, staff, prisoners and their families.

The effect of Parole Board delays, limited resources, poor procedures for managing risk and a lack of available places on offending behaviour programmes means that many IPP prisoners are held for years beyond their original tariff, no longer in prison for what they have done, but for what they might do.

A Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year reaffirmed that it was the responsibility of the government and Parliament to find a solution for those stuck in prison beyond their tariff.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove has said, in a recent speech to prison governors, that “there are a significant number of IPP prisoners who are still in jail after having served their full tariff who need to be given hope that they can contribute positively to society in the future.” Despite this, the government has ruled out the possibility of introducing new legislation, referring the issue to the Parole Board.

Incoming director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson said: “This report shows the growing toll of despair the IPP sentence is having on prisoners and their families, years after its abolition.

“Urgent action is needed. The government should convert these discredited sentences into an equivalent determinate sentence, with a clear release date, and provide full support to people returning to their communities. Only then will the damaging legacy of this unjust sentence finally be confined to the history books.”

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