Government must go further on indeterminate sentences, Quakers say
Quakers have cautiously welcomed recent changes to the much-criticised Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences.
But they warn that changes announced by the government on 28 November do nothing to alleviate the situation of 3,000 prisoners currently in custody.
These indeterminate sentences were abolished in 2012. IPP also affects around 5,000 people released into the community, who are subject to recall to prison at any time.
The government has agreed to reduce the term after which the IPP sentence is terminated from ten years in the community to five, or three years following a positive parole hearing.
This does nothing to alleviate the desperate situation of those languishing in prison with an IPP- Melanie Jameson, QICJ clerk
But even these changes will not take place until after the Victims and Prisoners Bill has received royal assent next year and, according to gov.uk, not until March 2025.
“How many more self-harm incidents and suicide attempts will have been recorded by then?" asked Melanie Jameson, clerk of Quakers in Criminal Justice (QICJ).
She added: “We welcome this move but stress that it does nothing to alleviate the desperate situation of those languishing in prison with an IPP, most of whom are way over their original tariff.
“The Justice Committee's core recommendation in its report of September 2022 was the resentencing of all IPP prisoners so they no longer suffer the stress of an indeterminate sentence, with those out in the community continually anxious that they will be recalled."
Meeting for Sufferings, the national representative body of Quakers in Britain, has written to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk MP to express their dismay at the ongoing situation.
“We understand that the Justice Committee of the House of Commons has agreed that these sentences cause 'profound psychological harm and mental torture'," they wrote.
“As it stands, the legacy of the IPP sentence is a 'cruel and degrading treatment' and is unworthy of the progress we have made as a society in upholding human rights and values."
Meeting for Sufferings urged Mr Chalk to remove the possibility of administrative failings alone leading to recall, and to follow and enact the recommendations in the Justice's Committee's report.
These include convening an expert group to devise legislation to support a resentencing exercise for all IPP prisoners, giving them a determinate sentence.
QICJ has also written to Shadow Minister for prisons, parole and probation, Ruth Cadbury MP seeking clarity on the Labour Party's position on core justice issues, including IPP sentences.
Quakers have a long-standing concern with the penal system. Today this includes a network of Quaker prison chaplains operating across England, Scotland and Wales, intervention programmes, an international track record on Restorative Justice and a Quaker Recognised Body with criminal justice expertise.