The Truth About IPP Sentences

Prisoners falsely categorised as prison system fights Clarke

Manipulation by officials is wasting money every day

Manipulation by officials is wasting money every day

Following Ken Clarke’s announcement that he intends to cut the prison population, governors, probation officers and others appear to be falsely assessing prison risk levels of those in custody amid fears of job losses and prison closures. The result of this war with government ministers responsible for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is that many prisoners are being held in ‘high’ and even ‘maximum security’ prisons when they could be housed at lower cost elsewhere.

While the cost of custody to the taxpayer continues to spiral upwards, those in charge appear to be more interested in protecting budgets and jobs. Governors and senior prison staff, as well as senior civil servants, know full well that Mr Clarke’s cuts could very well mean job losses and the closure of some prisons; something that the Prison Governors Association (PGA) and the Prison Officers Association (POA) both commented on following  Clarke’s announcement following the last general election.

If the Justice Secretary is successful in his attempt to cut costs and improve rehabilitation, there would be less need for prison spaces, prison staff and probation officers who work in prisons. Those running the system appear to have responded by inflating prisoners’risk levels, keeping lower risk prisoners in high security establishments and ensuring that certain types of offender, regardless of the level of their offence or likelihood of escape, are categorised as ‘high’ risk.

Meanwhile, the costs of keeping people in custody overall continues to rise. There are currently 4 types of prison in the UK (categories A, B, C and D), each graded according to its level of security. Prisoners too are categorised as either A, B, C or D category prisoners, generally according to the risk that they might pose to the public were they ever to escape.

Category A prisoners are the most expensive to hold, apparently because of the extra staff and security deemed necessary. It is obviously true that some prisoners are undoubtedly dangerous, are often sentenced to life imprisonment and need to be accommodated in prisons that makes escape impossible whilst hopefully engaging in rehabilitation.

Category B prisoners are supposedly a step down from the above but this analysis is deeply flawed. For example, all ‘local’ prisons are Category B establishments, although some also have a Category C wing. When someone is remanded in custody, for any offence, they are automatically categorised as a ‘B cat’ prisoner, even if their offence is very minor. In the same cell, there may very well be someone who has committed a serious offence that could result in a very long, or even a life sentence.

How can it be that two prisoners who are at the opposite ends of the ‘risk scale’ can both be housed in the same prison, on the same wing and even in the same cell?

This kind of situation arises from the instruction from the governor that new inmates must be written up as ‘B cat’ until more is known about them. Given that 45% of those remanded in custody are eventually acquitted of their offence anyway, there is clearly something very wrong with the reasoning of the governor concerned or, worse still, with that of the civil servants responsible for issuing the instruction to the governor in the first place.

Of course, if there were less ‘B cat’ prisoners, less staff would be required and some wings and perhaps whole establishments could be closed or made smaller. Not something that those who work in prisons ever want to hear.

Certain alleged offenders are always – and often wrongly – categorised as ‘high risk’. The obvious example is sex offenders who for ‘political’ reasons are nearly always remanded in custody and are classified by probation officers as being ‘high’ risk before trial, after trial and even after release.

These offenders can for example spend 10 years in prison yet, according to the sages of the Probation  and Police services, their risk will be the same when they come out as it was when they went in, a terrible indictment of the service that is responsible for their rehabilitation. They are usually only made ‘C cat’ or ‘medium’ risk prisoners towards the end of their sentence and if it is long enough.

This late re-categorisation is often because many of the necessary courses and programmes – which are very expensive and not necessarily effective but do keep people employed – are only available in C category prisons or, in a worst case scenario, because the Prison Service does not want to be seen to be releasing a B or ‘high’ category prisoner into the community when the offender must be released at the end of their term in custody.

Frequently, where an offender has been recalled for an alleged breach of licence, they are held as a ‘high’ risk prisoner with all the expense that incurs, only to later be released by the Parole Board when the recall, instigated by the constantly risk averse Probation Service, has been found to be unjustified in the first place following a very expensive oral hearing. even knows of one case where a sex offender was packed off to HMP Frankland maximum security (A Category) prison and was told on arrival that he would be there for at least 4 years before he could be moved. 11 months later he was in HMP Maidstone, a C category, medium risk establishment.

The reason for his move to HMP Frankland was later discovered to be that he had been making life difficult for the governor at HMP Elmley, a local B category prison in Kent. As punishment, he had been moved to the Category A prison – even though he was a category B prisoner who was then downgraded within the first year to category C.

Often, initial risk assessments on offenders will result in them being inappropriately placed in higher category establishments. As anyone who has seen one will know, a probation officer’s ‘pre-sentence report’ (PSR) will often exaggerate all negative points, ignore any positive attributes and nearly always recommend a disproportionately long sentence to the judge who, for fear of criticism, plays along, only to find that the sentence is later reduced on appeal, the appeal having been funded at the taxpayer’s expense.

Prisoners are sometimes ‘ghosted’ out of a prison in the middle of the night, only to find that they are being moved to another high security prison, even if their risk level does not justify it. The prisoner has no choice, cannot appeal and very often is not even told where he is going until he is nearly at the gate of the new establishment.

All of this false manipulation costs enormous amounts of money; money that is often being wasted in order to keep governors, civil servants, prison staff and probation officers in a job when it could be better spent on the homeless, the poor, the sick or the disabled.

How much money are we talking about?

The latest available figures (available from the MOJ website  for the overall annual cost of keeping a Category B prisoner is £34,359 and for a Category A prisoner it increases to an astonishing £64,052.  The reason for this extra £30,000 per prisoner is the cost of extra staff and security measures considered necessary in high and maximum security prisons, often referred to as ‘dispersal prisons’ and the running of the ‘High Security Estate’ in general.

An example is the maximum (category A) security prison HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire.  Figures published this month show that in August 2011 there were 613 prisoners held there.  This was made up of 149 Category A prisoners (very high, maximum risk), 446 Category B prisoners (high risk), and 18 who had not yet been sentenced.  This means that the Prison Service is spending an unnecessary £30,000 or so a year on each of at least 446 prisoners.  That works out at a staggering £13,380,000 a year at just one prison alone.

This appalling waste of public money is echoed daily in ‘local’ prisons where ‘B cat’ prisoners are unnecessarily detained instead of being moved to cheaper, ‘medium’ security C category establishments. Prisoners are often moved on, not to where they should be but instead to wherever there happens to be a space – and when there exists an excuse to move them.

However, even with all this manipulation of the system by those with vested interests, believes that the real reason for this horrendous waste of public money is simply that Britain sends far too many people to prison in the first place. It is after all a fact that the UK imprisons more of its people than any other country in Europe and has more offenders serving some kind of ‘life’ or ‘indeterminate’ sentence than all the other EU member states put together (Source: European Commission).

Therefore, the real causes are very much political, not judicial. They are driven by MPs looking for cheap votes and ministers who want even more power. The trouble is, now that the money has run out, rather than reduce the numbers of people being sent to prison in the first place, the government is having to cut the money spent on those already in custody and that has upset those who work in the system who can see their self-serving empires crumbling on a daily basis.

This constant ‘war’ does not help anyone. The myths put out by the tabloids that prisons are ‘holiday camps’ are simply untrue and are designed to sell papers, not tell the truth. Prisons are terrible places. They are corrupt too and often, establishments themselves will leak information into the public domain if it results in maintaining or increasing the number of staff employed. Probation officers do the same if it is in the interests of ‘the service’ and some staff will do it just for the money paid by the tabloids.

The PGA response to the government’s comment, “Prison System is broken?” was as follows and can be read on the PGA website:

“Instead of criticising the service Ken Clarke should be attributing praise to a service that is already stretched. He should  not forget that the government and in real terms the public can only be provided with the level of service that they pay for and Governors can only supply what they are funded for.”  

In a sense, the PGA is quite correct but their response would have more credibility if it were not for the fact that many of those in the prison system will do anything to keep their jobs, including cheating on prisoner classification, in order to maintain staff levels and keep establishments open. therefore suggests that the government should go through all the sentences recommended for every crime and get rid of any custodial sentence that is unnecessary, reduce to a sensible level those that are left and have the courage to face down the tabloid newspapers, lobby groups, charities and all the other money-hungry groups that exist only because a corrupt system allows them to make money from a fraudulent and ever-expanding criminal ‘justice’ system.

We realise that this could take some time, given that we have a Parliament that does nothing other than produce more and more Law and more and longer sentences for more and more new offences. Nevertheless, it would be time well spent – unlike the money that is leeched from taxpayers on a daily basis and spent on hiding the iniquities of a prison service not fit for purpose.

It is indeed a great hypocrisy that those responsible for locking up alleged criminals should themselves be engaged in activities that in some cases may very well be described as being ‘criminal’. All the time that situation persists, more taxpayers’ money will be wasted – along with countless lives and the futures of those who could, if given the chance, contribute to society rather than cost it a fortune.

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17 Responses to Prisoners falsely categorised as prison system fights Clarke

  1. Jonathan
    February 11, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Hi my dad has been sentenced to 12 months we was all shocked at what happpend as his 52 years old and first offence of Abh , he went from category A after first week to category D now his been moved after another week to category C “something wrong with the paper with categorisation anyone can give any information on what’s going on . Please help

  2. Robert Matthews
    May 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I live in Ireland and your very good article above applies as much there as in the UK. I notice that there is no mention of bringing back the death penalty for even totally proven (higher level of proof than beyond all reasonable doubt) first degree murder and other similar level crimes. Money spent on these Cat A prisoners would then be available for the more deserving in society. I have wondered even from as young as early teens why the death penalty does not exist in Europe as it seems an obvious simple solution to reallocating costs from the very evil and undeserving to those most needy. I would use the much cheaper firing squad (by the army under controlled conditions) rather than hanging as the latter is too expensive. I’ve read most of the arguments against, but none are convincing. One argument against is that we shouldn’t play “God” with human life, but our Governments already play “God” by deciding who gets handouts, who pays more or less tax, which drugs are passed for pharma companies, what laws are enacted, what wars are engaged in, etc…and who, therefore, has more risk of dying, eg old people without heat during Winter, etc…Other solutions would be value enhancing supervised project work outside prisons, bit like the chain-ganging in the US but more productive. I guess humans just aren’t perfect and one has to live with that…………!!

  3. nikki
    January 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

    my son is on the verge of receiving an IPP sentence recommended by prohbation officers how can they recommend this completely devastated him and family they are ruining lives he is 19 , they hardly know him
    please is they any help for him ???????????????

    • Paul
      January 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

      There is help. Join the Members Club and use the Confidential Advice Service. There’s a load of stuff in the club’s Information Centre as well. Click on the Members Club link at the top of the page.

  4. Graeme
    January 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    As a lawyer, I see the effects of this every day. There is now such a growth in the easy conviction rate of sex offenders that the risk levels reflect not true risk but ‘perceived’ risk. In other words, the system has been forced by politicians to respond to the tabloids and child protection lobbyists. As a result, ANY sex offender, regardless of offence, will now ALWAYS be assessed as ‘dangerous’ to some extent or other. The side effect of this is that thousands of people are employed in the prison, probation and police services soley for the purpose of ‘managing’ sex offenders, most of whom are much less dangerous to children than many parents are.

    This is precisely what has happened in the United States and it has almost bankrupted some states as a result. Here in Britain the people need to realise that this obsession with child protection is costing millions when it does not need to, employs too many people and destroys the lives of children who have no hope of ever being allowed to grow up properly or learning to take care of themselves, society preferring instead to regard them as some kind of ‘protected species’; until they do something wrong of course and then politicians dictate that they shoujld all be slung in jail, preferably for as long as possible.

    Britain is now reaping the results of the monster that child protection has become, principally because most people are too frightened to say anything against it. So in the UK we now have expensive, politically correct, nauseating, ‘do-gooding’ nonsense that does nothing to help children but employs millions of politically protected individuals who profit at the expense of the rest of us whilst regarding themselves as superior to everyone else.

  5. Jenny Richards
    January 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    An excellent article, as always. The cost of unnecessary security is also extended to people visiting B Cat prisoners in A Cat prisons, because the visitors also have to submit to the higher level of A Cat searches and checks.

    Yet another waste of money is the many prisoners who are given a higher category simply because they maintain their innocence. Many of them are old men who have been convicted without proof of sexual offences from decades before the allegations were made. How can men in their 60s, 70s and 80s be classed as ‘high risk’? In these cases, the Ministry of Justice has a cunning plan to help offset their prison costs: they confiscate the state pension these old men have paid into for up to 50 years, on the grounds that it is a ‘benefit’.

  6. Shelley
    January 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    If the over tariff IPP prisoners were to be released to outside probation (they still have a life licence) then that would create a lot of prison spaces. The IPP Prisoner and their families have been left in limbo by a sentence that has never worked.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      January 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      Editors note: For the sake of clarity, IPP prisoners are actually not subject to a ‘life licence’ but are able to apply for the licence to be removed 10 years after the commencement of the licence. This is one of the principal differences between a ‘life’ sentence and an IPP. – Editor

  7. Charles Hanson
    January 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    One of the factors which increases an offender’s risk is the misuse of the OASys (Offender Assessment Systems) where one probation officer or indeed a prison officer can increase risk at a stroke by inflating the numbers which add up to a final figure from which risk is assessed as low, medium or high. Much depends on the person completing the OASys forms. These forms and assessments are available on an intranet so that the final assessment carried out by a prison officer can be seen at an instant by an outside probation officer who might yet top up that figure.
    Even homelessness is marked up and how many prisoners will be homeless on release?
    Another factor which is missed when looking at the prison population is just how many people are in prison having been recalled by probation officers quite often for trivial matters like missing an appointment, being out of touch, not abiding by the rules of a hostel to a deterioration in behaviour which is often a subjective assessment to say the least. The latest Parole Board figures shows that in the year 2010-2011, they considered a total of 14,308 recalls and some of these would have had review after review. Less than 25% were in prison for having committed further offences whilst on licence. The rate of recalls for the year is up 5% which suggests that probation officers who have to work by the Ministry of Justice guidelines will continue to recall offenders to prison for non-criminal matters thus taking up valuable prison places. The old days where probation officers had discretion and flexibility and recall was always the LAST resort has now been replaced by the knee jerk response to protect the public although jailing someone for missing an appointment, returning late to a hostel, having a disagreement with probation staff or playing up is hard to reconcile with public protection. Some 10% of prisoners in some local prisons are on recall many who have not re-offended which is a disgrace when there must surely be other avenues and procedures to deal with them in the community including warnings, written warnings and a final warning, perhaps community work as an alternative to prison and tagging. The UK already holds the dubious distinction of locking up more people than any other country in Europe which is set to rise and the costs are soaring. Of course, prison officer, probation officers right down to prison psychologists who also take part in prisoner assessments see their jobs under threat and no more so than when the MOJ undertakes to market test and financially assess prisons, those who work in them and those who deal with offenders. Locking up more offenders however trivial the reason seems to me to guarantee their role in the workplace and what has become the revolving door of further offending and more prison time for offenders who will continue to be confined in penal dustbins and warehouses that have no clear objectives.

    • Raymond Peytors -
      January 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      I am glad to see that you confirm the points made in the article. OAsys 2, the latest version of the flawed risk assessment tool, reinstated the facility of ‘professional judgement’ superceeding the logical and actuarial assessment of risk. Unfortunately, the same ‘professional judgement’ extends to the police. Basically, if they do not like the result that the assessments produce, it can be ignored and a totally subjective and often ill-informed personal opinion takes its place. – Editor

  8. Ms Justice
    January 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    The categories are purely for cosmetic reasons.There are inmates in Bullingdon ( supposed to be C cat but runs as a B cat) rotting away as category B whilst they have officially being categorized as C. Why??
    Every so often they wave a carrot stick at them to make them so called enhanced prisoners and add that little bit of extras in their life only to pull it back on them when the inmate thinks he will get it. Meanwhile they continue to ignore their categorization due to staffing levels. How much torture can these inmates take?

  9. patricia win
    January 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I’m no expert on this but one thing I do believe very strongly. There ARE people in our prisons who do not belong there, i.e. marijuana users,etc. That’s a disgrace…someone with a drug problem who only hurt themselves in prison ! They need to be in treatment.
    And because the sex offender laws have become so extremely all encompassing, there are too many of these people in prison who don’t belong there.

    Few people know (or care) how bad (how ineffective) the sex offender laws are.
    I am sure it makes some feel that children are safer but how can bloating the registry with people who are not dangerous really protect children better? Garrido is proof that this is not a good idea. 18 YEARS it took to get him and he was in compliance! Maybe if law enforcement was only watching out for the truly dangerous s.o.’s, it could work better? We need smarter sex-offender laws, not ones that put quantity over quality. But these laws are a big hit with all those who are making money from them. Unscrupulous politicians, who never would have gotten their butts elected if not for these laws, are happy about them. Media that is drama-driven, esp. FOX, rather than real news -driven, loves them. And overly-zealous prosecutors trying to make a name for themselves by increasing the notches in their legal gun belts like them. The private prisons that have an unending need to keep their beds full and the always growing surveillance industry like them. So, they’ll probably be around for awhile. Parnoia sells. Sex sells. The two together with wanting to protect children in there is an extremely potent mix.

    MOST who are on the registry are NOT Dangerous,. Their lives sure are being ruined, ALONG with their family and their CHILDREN’S lives …job loss, family loss, having to move, becoming homeless, having to look over their shoulders for some nut- case vigilantes, some who have gotten the wrong people. Who cares that the big majority are Romeo-Juliets (19 yr. old boyfriend and 15 yr. old girlfriend), urinated in public while intoxicated, mooned somebody for fun after a game, visited an adolescent prostitute who lied about her age….he may be a pathetic scumbag, but dangerous?? Or he could be one of the burgeoning numbers who downloaded “child” porn, MOST of which is adolescent girls/guys and do most men check to ask the age on there??? Mothers, fathers, warn your sons! That’s one of the largest growing groups on the registry. This insanity is being used to trap men that would never harm a fly? It is getting more and more unreal. What has happened to our justice system?

    • Raymond Peytors -
      January 23, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Editorial note: The original URLs have been removed from this comment as per our Terms & Conditions. URLs can however be posted in the forums available to all members of the Members Club.- Editor

    • Penny Jackson
      May 16, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      My son was seeing a girl who states on her Facebook account she was 18. To be honest she dresses and looks at least 17. When he found out she was fourteen he finished with her. She then went to police. My son admitted he had sex with her but not guilty to knowing her age. The probation woman wrote a pre sentance report on him. Made him out to be a crook. He has never been in trouble with the law before. This girl is still staying she is 18. She sent him messages apologising to him saying she was sorry and can not imagine what he was going through. He tried to hang his self twice. He got 4 years custodial and 5 years on the sex offenders. Isn’t it about time they started taking these girls to court too. She knew what she was doing. It’s also about time the courts started looking at the real sex offenders. The joke is that it isn’t girls like this that wants protecting from men it’s the men that need protecting from these girls. He was told that he was looking at between paying her £1000 to £1500 compensation. She has been awarded £120. What is wrong with this system.

  10. Petro
    January 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I so very much agree, everyone of them turns a blind eye as it is always the case in the MOJ. They need hands on, too much office work is not very wise. The system needs an overhaul.None of them will ever accept that they have failed totally, succeeded in wasting taxpayers money yes. Cat C is no different from cat B practically from my own experience. My sons’ been in both Catergories and truely speaking they are no different. 23hour lock up one hour exercise order of the week. Where is the difference in terms of expenditure. The staffing levels are the same as in b and c.Yes they need to come to the real world.

  11. paul
    January 23, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    The truth at last! I always suspected that this was the case.What a pity that other sites don’t have what it takes to reveal what is really happening. Too afraid I guess.

  12. alana
    January 23, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Blood money” how this country has the nerve to speak of past persecution, and still goes on this very day, this country is in my belief, a very evil society, and although there probably are a handful of God fearing people still living amongst the evil tyrants that rule this God forsaken country, truth is” they refuse to intervene with the powers that be. So, by my reckoning” that makes them no better than the rest.

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