Friday, 10 June 2016

Prison Essays (9): Indeterminate Sentences

IPPs (Imprisonment For Public Protection) was introduced by a right wing Labour government and this new law was introduced for a variety of reasons. There are three reasons and I shall briefly discuss them all individually. (1). Control. Control in prison and most importantly outside of this establishment. People subject to an IPP sentence are placed on licence, once leaving prison, for at least ten years, and up to life. So, in effect a life sentence. So for the rest of these people’s lives they are subjected to a sort of mental terror, knowing that doing something wrong, especially in a bail hostel, face the prospect of spending many years in prison. So many aspects of their lives are dominated. They must ask if they want to work in a particular job, move into a flat, even form a relationship. This is, so we are told, a democracy and not totalitarian state.

(2). Induce the prisoner to admit “offences” they have not committed. This was savagely successful, and it had many sides to it. For example, people were utterly mortified at the prospect of being found guilty of anything. By pleading guilty there was less chance of receiving an IPP sentence and for the ones that did receive one it was a far more frightening prospect. For example they were, as they still are, forced to go on infantile courses and refusal would see them in prison for many more years, possibly for the rest of their lives. But it goes even further than this. These courses sought to change people's attitudes and tacitly encourage them to become more docile and favourable to authority, to reognise their incorrigible behaviour, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be removed entirely from society when they serve their life sentence, once they are out of prison. It is vicious brainwashing, and it goes much further than that. The sessions (they are group sessions), are filmed, their verbal introduction, views and thoughts on relevant topics, are noted down, this information is passed on to their probation officer and other agencies. Again, this, so we are told, is not a totalitarian state but a democracy.

(3). Deceive the public. With the IPP system now in place the government were able to make perverse claims, saying the most dangerous people are now in prison and will not be released until they reach certain conditions, these conditions is obedience to their tormentors. Many who were given this “death sentence”, as prisoners describe it, are not and never were the slightest bit dangerous. The judges were giving them out so frequently that the government had to vary the law, so fewer would receive the “death sentence”. All it required was an unfavourable report from their probation officer in their presentence report and that alone made the chance of receiving an IPP sentence more inevitable. One man, at the time he was sentenced, was still a “young offender”. According to his own barrister, was expecting, perhaps a suspended sentence; he spent some months on remand. His crime: he had a relationship with a thirteen-year-old child and this relationship included carrying out awful abuses such as holding hands with the boy and the occasional kiss on the cheeks. It should come as no great surprise that this young man had the mental capacity of a child, and no doubt thought and acted like one. When he was sentenced he received a three-and-half-year IPP. There are hundreds of more people, having committed small misdemeanours, who are in this same position.

In fact there are tens of reasons why the government introduced these barbaric IPP sentences. A more detailed essay could deal with these points and it is not difficult to understand why these harsh draconian policies are implemented. If that was not perverse enough there are another bunch of helpless prisoners who are subject to a sort of psychological terror and they are what we refer to as “lifers”, and most are set a “tariff”, that is that they must serve a number of years in prison before they are suitable for release, so in many ways similar to IPP sentences.

John Podmore is a former Governor, Chief Inspector of Prisons and author of Out of Sight Out of Mind, a book. In it he discusses Britain’s obsessive nature with handing out mandatory life sentences for convicted murderers. But it is not just for murder either but for many other “offences” considered to be less serious but this means nothing to the criminal classes and inevitably these unfortunate people who spend many years in prison will forever be in bondage to the state. Their release can only be made possible when they relinquish disobedience, independence and resistance to authorities. They must, in essence, think like their jailors, think like their leaders and think like a controlled machine, in other words not to think independently at all but do what they are told. Upon release from prison this hideous terror takes on the form of something far greater.

The state apparatus expects the prisoner to be “stable”, “stability here is the key word, stability is doublespeak to mean control. If we are not able to control individuals then they must perish in prison until they conform and obey. Any resistance to this is not tolerated by the criminal class but why would people outside the prison industrial complex care? These prisoners may have murdered, raped or tortured, so therefore why should such people deserve our sympathy, support or even acknowledgement of their existence? This is an interesting argument because the soldier kills, we are told for his country, the police shoot unarmed civilians and this is met with total impunity, the Social Services, Doctors and other professionals make decisions which amount to “gross negligence” and “manslaughter”, yet these professionals are seldom charged with these things, let alone spend years in jail. Members of Parliament are responsible for mass murder abroad, yet are free to continue their hideous practices. Major concentrated power commit heinous crimes: BP, Trafigura, Shell, Apple, Adidas, Nike, Gap and so on but they always get state protection, and in comparison, their crimes are too terrible to contemplate. In actual fact their crimes are more criminal than the entire prison population combined, but people tend not to treat them the same way as convicted prisoners.

1st-2nd February, 2014
For previous prison essays check recent posts. The last of my prison essays will be posted soon.

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