Home UK News Dominic Raab’s IPP announcement lead to suicides in prison

Dominic Raab’s IPP announcement lead to suicides in prison

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DAME ANNE OWERS

A watchdog has associated three recent suicides in prisons with the government’s choice to extend the length of time individuals sentenced to IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) have to stay in custody.

A recent report from the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) has revealed that IPP prisoners have expressed their growing sense of hopelessness and frustration since the former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab sidelined the Justice Select Committee’s demand to resentence all IPP prisoners – which would have led to the release of most of the 3000 inmates still in detention.

Raab stated on February 9 that he was refusing the committee’s request. Dame Anne Owers (pictured), National Chair of the IMBs and a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, unveiled the IMBs’ report and stated, “For a number of years, IMBs have voiced their concerns about prisoners still serving IPP sentences, which were abolished more than a decade 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.”

The then-Labor government and its home secretary, David Blunkett, instituted IPPs in 2005. The prisoner remains in custody until the Parole Board determines that he or she is no longer a danger to society. After release, the individual retains a perpetual licence and is subject to recall to prison for poor conduct, even if no new offences have been committed.

More than 8,000 individuals received the sentences before their abolition in 2012, when they were deemed unconstitutional. Since 2005, 81 individuals serving sentences have committed suicide in prison. In 2022, IPP prisoners committed nine self-inflicted suicides, which was a record annual total.

Local boards from twenty-four prisons in England and Wales contributed to the national IMB report. According to them, many IPP prisoners now doubt whether they will ever be released and dread dying behind bars. Many prisoners are confined in facilities that do not offer the courses they need to complete to demonstrate to the Parole Board that their risk level has decreased.

One IPP prisoner told the IMBs: “Nothing has changed. Hope kills you. No hope now.” Another said: “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.”

Raab stated in February, when explaining his decision to deny the resentencing petition, that the action “could lead to the immediate release of many offenders who have been assessed as unsafe for release by the Parole Board, many with no period of community supervision.” This month, the Ministry of Justice issued an amended “action plan” outlining the steps that prisons and probation should take to assist IPP inmates in working towards release under the current system.

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