The Truth About IPP Sentences

Prisons Week – Never heard of it? is well known for its views on the UK Criminal Justice system, so when a close friend informed me that this week is Prisons Week, the question I asked – as may many of you – was, “What exactly is Prisons Week and why haven’t I ever heard anything about it?”

Prisons Week is, apparently, a week in which prisoners, all those responsible for them and the victims of crime are remembered. The whole affair seems to be organised by churches of various denominations and is no doubt put together by well meaning people.

So what is the problem?

It is the fact that those who are responsible for this event keep it to themselves.

So much for so little…just click on the image above

The churches fail miserably to use it to pressure the Government into penal reform, the organisers fail to publicise it in any meaningful way and presume that a few entries on the Internet will do the job, the big organisations like NACRO and the Prison Reform Trust keep quiet about it, the news programmes fail to cover it, another year goes by and nobody remembers it; so nothing changes.

Then the following year they do the whole thing again, as they have done for the last 30 years.

The previous Government’s solution to every problem was to pass new legislation and if at all possible, create yet another new criminal offence with some draconian sentence attached to it. The children who grew up under Blair were taught that everyone sent inside was evil and should be excluded from society for ever. Those children are now adults but still cling to that misguided belief. I seem to remember that Adolf Hitler taught the same philosophy.

Before the last election, the Conservatives too were saying the same thing. Once in power however, they realised that there was no money left and suddenly started talking about prison and penal reform. Of course, they didn’t’ mean it and if they had the money of the last administration, they too would be locking up as many people as possible.

It is that attitude and approach that should be under sustained attack this week, not the fact that there are insufficient numbers of books in the prison library or that there aren’t enough activities and competitions to keep prisoners amused.

The organisers of Prisons Week should be converging on Downing Street and lobbying Parliament, not simply talking about the problems and praying for help. In case no one had noticed, God never visits Number 10 and the only appearance he makes in the Palace of Westminster  is the reading of morning prayers – and most MPs fastidiously avoid that. is well aware of the disregard that the UK people have for the majority of those in prison and the ingrained and manufactured hatred reserved for certain categories of prisoners.

Their attitude is a direct result of the last 25 years of political exploitation of prisoners and the Criminal Justice system; an exploitation born out of a need for political capital and the search for cheap votes from a general public who have been taught to care about nobody but themselves.

Prisons Week has been around for 30 years yet this week sees a new high in the numbers of those in jail in the UK.

With the best will in the world, urges those responsible for Prisons Week to come into the 21st century, realise that prisoners are – and always have been – a political football to be kicked around at every opportunity, to rethink their strategy of the last 30 years (which appears not to have worked) and to start bashing-up those with the power to make a difference to our sordid, outdated penal system.

Praying is all very well but remember this: God is the only one who answers prayers – not greedy, self-centred politicians. They have to be embarrassed into action or nothing will ever change.

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