Today the BBC Radio 4 Today programme covered the decision by the Parole Board to release James Ward. In 2006 James was given an IPP sentence with a 10 month tariff. 11 years later he remains in custody.
The Parole Board’s decision will come as an immense relief to James and his family who have fought tirelessly to highlight the injustice of his continued detention. His case highlights the devastating impact of the IPP on them and thousands of people serving the discredited IPP sentence, imprisoned not for what offences they did commit but for what they might do.
Although the sentence was abolished in 2012, there are still 3,353 people in prison serving IPP as of 30 June 2017. Over four-fifths (85%) of people serving an IPP sentence are still in prison having passed their tariff expiry date—the minimum period they must spend in custody and considered necessary to serve as punishment for the offence. 552 people are still in prison despite being given a tariff of less than two years—nearly half of these (278 people) have served eight years or more beyond their original tariff.
Despite recent efforts by the Parole Board and prison service to increase the rate of release of IPP prisoners, the Parole Board predicts that without legislative action by 2020 there will still be 2000 people in prison serving on IPP sentence.
The Parole Board has put forward sensible recommendations to expedite the release of the remaining IPP prisoner population. These include proposals to convert IPP sentences into their equivalent determinate sentences, and the executive release of those like James given an original tariff of two years or less. It has also proposed measures to address the growing number of people serving IPP sentences in the community being recalled to custody for breach of their licence conditions.
The report launched today by the Centre for Social Justice calling for a reboot of the rehabilitation revolution proposes measures to deal with the remaining IPP prisoner population including the release of the majority of post-tariff IPP prisoners, prioritising those with an original tariff of two years or less.
Last week’s debate on prison overcrowding in the House of Lords highlighted growing unease among peers over the failure of the government to legislate to address the injustice faced by the remaining IPP prisoner population.
Commenting, Mark Day, Head of Policy and Communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The IPP continues to cast a long shadow over our justice system years after its abolition. Despite recent welcome efforts by the Parole Board and prison service to speed up the release of the remaining IPP prisoner population, without legislative action there will still be thousands of people caught in indefinite detention by 2020. The onus is now on the government to put into action the sensible recommendations made by the Parole Board and other senior policymakers and finally put an end to this unfair and unjust sentence.”