Written evidence from Mr Eddie Doherty, Probation Officer at Probation Service

 

What options are available to reduce the size of the IPP prison population? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different options?

1. Resentence each case  on an individual  basis  to a different disposal using  the EDS sentence as a template, providing a tailored approach that  takes  into  account the index offence and where the person is in the sentence process-This is complicated and could not possibly take into  account the individual narrative of every case.Some prisoners have been out and recalled a number of times, some are many years over tariff and would warrant immediate release even though they  may be  in a severe state of crisis. I think this would be a very difficult solution and open to  challenge from men who felt their resentence  was unjust/different from a comparable case.

2. Provide each IPP prisoner with a finite licence period set, for example ,at  5 years from the point of any  or the most recent release.Some prisoners will have been out for longer than 5 years and will be taken out of the system straight away.Others will have additional  motivation to  see  out their licence and any  recall will have a SLED. Men still in custody will know they  have a sentence end date once release. I think this could be a good solution if all the remaining prisoners  in custody are directed to a fast  track parole hearing process that  sets realistic and measurable goals before release. I am talking about an entirely separate  pathway for IPP prisoners with  set Parole board members whose sole function is to hear IPP cases , set short term targets and facilitate the release at  the earliest safe  opportunity in order to  commence the fixed term licence period.

3. Commission multi agency teams  in each region to  manage the progression of IPP prisoners both in an  out of custody.This would not necessarily require a change  in legislation but would afford IPP prisoners access to  interventions  on an individual basis  from  Forensic and Clinical Psychology as well as ETE/mentoring services and experienced Probation Officers.

The team around the prisoner approach would work best when accompanied by the ideas in (2) ie; Finite licence period and fast track parole process where hand picked boards follow the progress of a prisoner through agreed set goals up to release  and for any  subsequent recall

What are the current barriers preventing release? What measures would need to be taken to overcome these barriers, and what would be the operational and resource implications for HMPPS?

Barriers-lack of access to  Psychological  services both clinical and forensic, poor support in the community beyond the short period in an Approved Premises.There needs to  be access  to  Psychological  support from a dedicated team after release to manage  the transition. Placing  someone on a waiting  list for Talking Therapy in the community along with thousands of members  of the public does not take  into  account  the specific trauma of the IPP sentence and the need for individually sculpted support.Operationally I am thinking of a  multi agency team  of dedicated individuals  whose sole  focus is to create a road that  can be travelled  by IPP prisoners in and out of custody.This would take IPP prisoners  out of the generic Probation caseload and  place them with officers  who are hand picked for their motivation  and skills in dealing with this group. There would need to  be mentors, housing representatives, substance  misuse workers, psychological and mental  health professionals to  provide a safe corridor for progress. In the short term, resource  intensive,  but with a  discernible and measurable goal that  would  ultimately save  money.

What would be the options and implications of backdating the change to IPP legislation?

The best outcome I can think of would be to  change the supervision duration to  make the  licence have an end date.If this is combined with additional help to  achieve safe release, ultimately the IPP population would be reduced to a negligible figure , where  only the most challenging cases   find themselves  unable to  achieve release.

This residual  group  will emerge and can be managed by a separate  , yet to  be decided , process.

What is the experience of people on IPP sentences in prison? What additional mental health challenges do people serving IPP sentences face because of the nature of their indeterminate sentence?

The IPP sentence has created trauma through hopelessness, leaving a very psychologically damaged group  of people, this is why  any  answer to  the problem  involves extensive clinical and forensic psychological support. The despondency of the IPP prisoner  is borne through experience and is therefore tangible not an  imagined psychological condition.

How is release and resettlement planned and managed for IPP prisoners given their unpredictable release date?

Currently IPP prisoners sit with POM’s  until the Parole process at which point a COM becomes  involved.This is a fragmented process that does not encourage continuity or the  building  of trust.This is why  a dedicated  multi  agency team would be beneficial as the prisoner would  know  that  a set  of  individuals with a clear remit are supporting their progress consistently.Furthermore , recalled IPP recalls end up in different prisons  to  the ones that  released them, all the knowledge that  built that person toward  parole and release, is lost.Furthermore they are faced with a new Parole Board, not the one that  released them.

How are people on IPP sentences managed within the community once released?

They sit on a generic caseload.My assessment is that COM’s are very wary of allowing too  much latitude and recall is triggered quicker because of the established profile  of IPP prisoners as ‘dangerous’ individuals through the IPP label. A  busy COM may  not want to  be exposed to  the  consequences of a man on life licence  committing a serious further offence.Further to  this IPP’s are spread across  teams, a newly qualified  officer could have the case and be particularly reluctant to act in anything but a defensive way.

What are the main reasons why people serving IPP sentences are recalled? Once recalled what support is given to prepare them for re-release?

Recall is often preceded  by clear  signs  of psychological distress, feelings  of displacement and struggles with mundane tasks  that  men on shorter sentences  take for  granted( managing the on line world for example) Beyond  the stay  at  an AP the level of support is low, it would be  more economically viable for each licenced  prisoner to  have a small team  of support workers( the team being allocated a number of prisoners on their caseload) to micro  manage  some  of the  practical assistance  until  such a time as the  individual needs reduced support  which I would foresee tailoring  off during any finite licence period. After recall  , addressing reasons  for failure  is difficult, Part B’s are generic , eg: undertake relapse prevention work, undertake ‘therapy’( vague and unhelpful as Probation officers are straying  into the clinical realm) possibly a programme that may  not run in the local area. Altogether  unhelpful ,I think the ideas I have proposed could address this  by building continuous support around the prisoner in and out of custody over seen by the same team