Campaigners highlighting the plight of people subjected to indeterminate IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences took their campaign to Westminster this week. An exhibition staged by campaign group UNGRIPP (United Group for Reform of IPP) features photography, poetry and testimony from people serving the indefinite sentences. You can listen to our podcast on IPPs which features an interview with Donna Mooney of UNGRIPP here.
‘Indefinite imprisonment on an abolished sentence cannot be allowed to continue,’ says UNGRIPP. ‘We hope this exhibition sufficiently moves MPs to share what they have learnt, support any constituents affected and call for the Secretary of State for Justice to support key amendments that would restore justice.’
The exhibition featured the photography of Andy Aitchison. Andy’s photographs have featured in Proof magazine – and you can read an interview with Andy here.
Along the bottom of the exhibition panels plume clouds of white dots, each one representing a prisoner still serving an IPP sentence, despite their being outlawed in 2013. Interspersed between the white dots, only visible once you start looking for them, then plain against the black background, are 90 red dots. Each one represents an IPP prisoner who has taken their own life.
IPP sentences were abolished over a decade ago following a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights that they constituted ‘arbitrary detention’. This kind of sentence stopped being handed down, but they were not scrapped retrospectively. Anyone still serving under an IPP at the time remained at the mercy of arbitrary and unjust release and recall conditions. Today, 2,916 people are still in prison serving an IPP sentence. 1,355 of these have never been released, even though 98% have served the minimum period the sentencing judge decided was fair punishment for their crime.
Although first introduced by Labour Home Secretary Lord Blunkett in 2003, he now unequivocally condemns the regime as ‘immoral and unfair’. Evidence shows people on IPP sentences are more likely to take their own lives than those on other tariffs, a statistic that is born out in this exhibition, and when you consider that many IPPs live under an indefinite license even after they are released. This means that they can be recalled to prison at any time, for even the most minor breach of their license conditions.