Life as an IPP Prisoner

One of our inside members writes anonymously on the experience of being sentenced to the now abolished 'Inprisonment for Public Protection'.

One of the most difficult things for me as an IPP prisoner is having to repeatedly explain to other prisoners how it is possible for someone to serve 15 years for making threats to kill, an offence that carries at the time of sentencing maximum term of 10 years. Explaining how this is not just possible but legal, it is even more difficult than trying to explain how someone can suffer a number of paroled rejections that now reaches into double figures.

It is not a state of affairs that is easy for people to accept or understand. The questioner is faced with a set of equations that cannot be computed. The news that I have served 15 years despite having been given a minimum recommended term of seven months is usually met with either amusement or disbelief, depending on whether the interested individual is familiar with the IPP sentence. If I am fortunate the news will be greeted with indifference, but indifference is really a courtesy extended to those in my position.

The IPP prisoner is presented with potentially devastating consequences if the news is received with scepticism and doubt where there is doubt there is suspicion. Where there is suspicion that tends to be accusations of dishonesty and, with an inordinate frequency, a corresponding need for self defence.

There is invariably another rejection from the parole board who refuse to recognise self preservation as a justification for the use of force. The rejection will be attributed to emotional instability and the cycle will begin again.

The further you drift beyond the expiry of your minimum term, the greater the sense of disbelief. A disclosure that I am being transferred to yet another establishment is accompanied by an overwhelming dread at the prospect of having to explain my strange predicament to a new audience. I am never under a greater strain then when I am negotiating new surroundings and I have developed an almost pathological wariness of the NEW ENVIRONMENT. The probation service and the parole board call this an inability to cope with change and use it to justify further imprisonment and recommend repeated exposure as a cure a form of shock therapy to be administered again and again and again, much in the same way forcing a man to lie in a coffin full of spiders could work as a cure to his arachnophobia.

When I do eventually get released it will not be because I have been reclaimed it will be because I was lucky enough to have endured 18 to 24 months without reacting to unfair and unnecessary provocation. It will have nothing to do with rehabilitation and everything to do with fortune. It will be because of the rare and blessed combination of favourable residential conditions, realistic probation officer and a lawyer who is a skilled sociopath rather than an unskilled sociopath. Without this foundation the IPP prisoner is helpless, lost and hopeless.