Over 3,000 Prisoners Still Remain in UK Prisons Serving Indefinite Prison Sentences
Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) Sentences were abolished in 2012. IPP sentences were pushed forward under the former New Labour government led by Tony Blair, implemented under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the first Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences came into effect in early 2005. Though IPP sentences were abolished in 2012, over 3000 prisoners in the United Kingdom still remain behind bars serving indefinite prison sentences.
It is clear to see why these types of sentences were abolished, with little hope for release, nothing to look forward to or work towards, it’s no wonder that many IPP prisoners suffered from serve depression or committed suicide during their incarceration. Many prisoners, often convicted for minor offences, who should have only been locked up for small periods of time, ended up behind bars for a lot longer than was necessary.
One such prisoner, James Ward, was sentenced in 2006 for setting fire to a mattress, what should have been a 10-month jail sentence (for a fairly minor offence) is still ongoing 11 years later.
It seems clear that James is suffering from mental health issues and is much more in need of hospital care as opposed to incarceration, what many will be shocked to learn is that Mr Ward is not unique. Over 3,000 people remain locked up behind bars with no release date. It is thought that it will take an additional six years for the prison service to work through the backlog of IPP prisoners and release them.
The decision was made to abolish IPP sentences as they were deemed to be in violation of a prisoner’s human rights and could be considered a cruel and unusual punishment under European law. There is a concern with Brexit negotiations ongoing, that IPP sentences could make a comeback, especially considering Theresa May’s recent comments that ‘if human rights laws get in the way of tackling terrorism, we’ll change them’.
IPP sentences are unfair and cruel, we can not continue to lock prisoners up indefinitely and give them nothing to work towards or look forward to. If we want prisoners to one day return to society as functional, contributing, human beings, then we must stop treating them like animals.
It is not enough for our government to simply realise their wrongs and abolish IPP sentences. Former IPP prisoners who have served their minimum tariffs should be released immediately from prison, any prisoner who is deemed a risk to the public should be placed in the care of mental health professionals. We can not lock people up and throw away the key, especially when those people are locked up for minor crimes, that is not the way a civilised society works.