With more people than ever spending Christmas behind bars this year, there is an opportunity early in the new year to do something about it. The House of Lords committee stage of the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill will consider proposals to abolish the much-criticised indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection (Report, 14 December). Two recent approaches to our advice and information team show why reform is essential. One concerned a person who received an IPP with a 71-day tariff and is now in his fifth year of imprisonment. The second involved someone with a brain injury, who was ineligible for offending behaviour courses and deemed, as a result, to be unable to make progress towards release.
As of March 2011 there were 6,550 prisoners serving an IPP sentence. Of these, 3,500 are being held beyond their tariff expiry date. Since its introduction in 2005 just 320 people serving IPP sentences have been released from custody. While prisoners are being forced to navigate their way through a system of Kafka-esque complexity, a common criticism is that the sentence also lacks clarity and certainty for victims and the wider public. Replacement by determinate sentences would help to establish a more just, humane and effective system.
Deputy director, Prison Reform Trust