‘Mental anguish’ and wider problems with IPP sentences | Letters

Nicolas Sanderson, who was involved in the creation of the sentence, corrects a common mistake. Mark Day says the government should eradicate this stain on our justice system

I would like to correct a widely repeated mistake about the indeterminate sentence for public protection (IPP), to the effect that it was “applied far more widely than intended” (‘Psychological torture’: call for reform after jail death, 10 January). I am the former head of policy in the Prison Service, and was involved in the creation of the sentence.

IPP was the invention of David Blunkett in 2001, against the advice of officials. He rejected the scheme for violent or sexual offenders proposed in a Home Office review of sentencing (Making Punishments Work), namely a determinate sentence with a review of the release date by the Parole Board, and a supervisory period that could be extended by the court.

Instead he mandated the IPP and it was applied precisely as intended and as set down in statute, with all the consequences that officials pointed out at the time. Most importantly, its application was mandatory upon the courts on a second conviction for a sexual or violent offence, however minor the actual behaviour. One of its first uses was where a man had squeezed a woman’s breast at a bus stop, and had a previous similar conviction: the court was obliged to impose an IPP. All the problems that have come to pass were glaringly apparent in that conviction.
Nicolas Sanderson
London

• The mental anguish inflicted on nearly 2,600 people serving the discredited and now abolished IPP is indicated in the shocking self-harm rates for this group. IPP prisoners are more than twice as likely to self-harm as people serving determinate sentences, with 872 incidents of self-harm per 1,000 IPP prisoners – a rate that has more than doubled over the past five years. In advice to ministers published in 2016, the Parole Board set out policy options for expediting the release of the remaining IPP population, as well as dealing with the growing problem of IPP recalls.

Without further legislation the board estimated that more than 1,000 IPP prisoners will remain stuck in the system by 2020, eight years after the sentence was abolished. Proposals for reform include conversion of IPP sentences into their equivalent determinate sentence, which could start with those on the shortest tariffs who have experienced the greatest injustice, and improvements to the licence conditions and support available to IPP prisoners on release. The government should finish the job it started and eradicate a stain on our justice system once and for all.
Mark Day
Head of policy and communications, Prison Reform Trust

• Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition

Letters

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mental health, Labour and the crisis in criminal justice and jails | Letters
Letters: Self-harm has escalated at the same time as prison healthcare funding being cut, writes Prof Pamela Taylor; and Labour needs to face up to its often-woeful past in contributing to the current crisis, says Prof Joe Sim

Letters

07, Feb, 2018 @6:01 PM

Article image
Mental ill-health and fair criminal justice | Letter
Letter: Too many people are sent to prison without magistrates or judges seeing an up-to-date pre-sentence report, say experts including Keith Bradley, author of the Bradley report

Letters

21, Jun, 2019 @4:41 PM

Article image
Therapy dogs make travel ruff for some | Letters
Brief letters: Rory Stewart’s promotion | Free plant cuttings | Caledonian Sleeper | Animals in airports | Funeral songs

Letters

06, May, 2019 @4:46 PM

Article image
Making the moral case for abolishing long-term prison sentences
Letters: Prisons are soul-destroying pits of human misery that can lead to atrophy, stasis and trauma, writes David Scott. Andy Stelman says there needs to be a rethink about recall as the default sanction for a failure to comply

Letter

21, Feb, 2019 @5:08 PM

Article image
Secure hospitals are not penal institutions | Letter
Letter: Very few patients in high secure hospitals have convictions for anything as horrible as Ian Brady’s crimes, and some have no criminal conviction at all, writes Mat Kinton

Letters

04, Oct, 2018 @5:27 PM

Article image
Child imprisonment is wrong – let’s end it | Letter
Letters: Representatives of Article 39, Inquest, the Howard League and the National Association for Youth Justice join others to announce the launch this month of England’s first collaborative campaign to end the incarceration of under-18s

Letters

08, Nov, 2018 @5:48 PM

Article image
Magistrates and short jail sentences | Letters
Letters: Martin Steer JP and Christine Walters respond to Rory Stewart’s suggestion that jail terms of less than six months could be scrapped

Letters

14, Jan, 2019 @5:48 PM

Article image
Our mentally ill daughter was left to die | Letters
Our daughter was sent to a brutal, chaotic and uncaring place 200 miles from home, writes one parent, while Keir Harding writes about how fear and neglect can prompt aggression in sufferers

Letters

25, May, 2018 @3:17 PM

Article image
An indictment of how we treat young offenders | Letters
Letters: Wally Harbert, Philip Hewitt, Heather Geddes and Jeanne Downton respond to an article asking why so many young people are being locked up in England

Letters

27, Jul, 2020 @3:11 PM

Article image
Rising youth crime reflects wider societal problems | Letters
Letters: Catherine West MP calls on a special fund for children at risk of school exclusion, while Steve Phaure says community responses are the best way to protect young people at risk. Plus letters from Don Macdonald and Norma Hornby

Letters

03, Apr, 2019 @5:40 PM