A letter from Ian Hartley, imprisoned on an IPP sentence.

Ian Hartley is currently imprisoned on an IPP sentence in HMP Risley. He is suffering and vulnerable as a direct result of the barbarity of the IPP system. What follows is a letter that has been published with his permission – it gives us an idea about what daily life is for IPP prisoners. There’s a content warning here for discussion of violence, drug use, abuse and suicide. 

Thank you for leaflets & post card – its so true what’s printed on the front. And thank you again for the help, direction & support you’re giving to Joanne. It’s good to know that us IPPs have people fighting for us outside & giving a voice to the forgotten ones.

I’ve spent a lot of time in prisons since 1989 due to my own selfish ways. The sentences I never really gave a thought to –  they was like water off a duck’s back to put it bluntly (sad really) I was in boarding schools from the age of 5 years old.

But I’ve always known when I was getting out. Then in 2006 I was sentenced to 3 years IPP 17 days took off. I didn’t have a clue what had happened and I wasn’t the only one. The sentencing judge Mr Slinger didn’t understand either because 3 days later I was called back to court so it could be explained what the sentence meant. Coming on 12 years later back broken I’m still here wandering the violent drug fueled wings not knowing when & if I’m ever going to get out, It’s an environment I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

(About Probation) In my opinion they don’t have a clue what’s going on in prison (on the wings) or how to handle IPP prisoners. I’ve had a big problem with substances since the age of 8 or 9. I have had clean times but I’ve also had a problem on this sentence. I hate waking up in the morning & can’t wait to go asleep at night, when sleep does come that is.

My probation officer commented that for someone who has been in prison as long as I have I’m headstrong. I took that as I’m not broken like she wants me to be. 7 years ago the probation was supporting me for residential rehab. Then that support was withdrawn for attempting to smuggle drugs 18 months before. – my fault I fully accept that. Me and probation argued & are still arguing to this day.

Last year with no help whatsoever I gained funding from Preston adult social services and a placement in residential rehab but in fact the probation inside and outside were not supportive and dead against it & they let the parole board know very much so. But 100% supportive of Cat D. When I explained to the probation it would be a matter of when & not if I lapsed into drugs in Cat D, she wrote in her report that I’d threatened to use drugs  if i went in Cat D, that I would use drugs & that I was trying to manipulate my release to a rehab (what a crock of shit). She claims she wanted me in Cat D. I lapsed I went & spoke to officers and asked for help.

I was moved to a ‘drug-free’ wing (no such thing in prison) where I was giving negative urine samples. 5 or 6 weeks later my probation officer came up to see me & explained that I looked really well & didn’t expect it really because she was told about my lapse. On that visit she started to talk about my childhood & was saying stuff like ‘what answers do you want from your mum. You need to let it go, you’re not gonna get answers to your questions.’ Then she started to tell me about her childhood & how she was brought up by her father and not her mother & how strict he was & things like that. Then about her own children & how they were disciplined (beaten).

She said: ‘but I accept nothing like you was Ian, but it was a different era you need to let it go Ian’. She started to talk about Joanne’s ex-husband who sexually assaulted her & how I would have to sit in a room with him & Joanne and social services over the kids then ended the visit, left me with a big head fuck, I feel she pulled me in & duped me with her patter about herself.

That night I lapsed. The screws walked in my pad, saw i was under the influence and found a bit of drugs on the side. They handcuffed me and put me in the block then sent me back to closed conditions the next day. Was that her test? I’ve had her for over 3 years as my offender manager & that was the first ever time I’ve seen her one to one, it’s always been with the offender supervisor.

If I wasn’t so head strong I would have took my own life long ago. I don’t live I exist in this life. And drugs have been my coping mechanism since a very early age. Thinking about how my family & Joanne’s would feel & deal with it have kept me alive because I wouldn’t want to put them through that sort of thing. This sentence is killing so many people within themselves.

There are so many times I’ve put myself in segregation for 5/6 months at a time. How can the powers that be expect you to change when every time that cell door opens you’ve got to put that mask on so you yourself don’t become a victim of the violence that happens every day on the wings. Last year us cleaners on the wing sorted some bullies out & they were moved off the wing the screws praised us.

I went into Cat D after that when I came back. I got put on a condemned little dingy wing. Low & behold the bullies were on there. I didn’t see it coming i just woke up in a pool of blood, I hadn’t even put my property in my cell. It looked like I’d gone 12 rounds with Ricky Hatton (the boxer). 3 days later a screw said ‘fucking hell, when did that happen’. I said 3 days ago, she said ‘there’s nothing in the observation book’. I knocked a visit back with my family because i didn’t want to frighten them – my mum & sister were sat in the visiting room but I wouldn’t come out my pad.

I asked to be moved off the wing but was left on the wing because I wouldn’t name names. But what I did say was you lot (screws) know about the bullying incident that went on on E wing & you’ve put me on the same wing as the bullies. I was still left on the wing, After pleading with a few officers I was still left there, I was only moved back to E wing after Joanne phoned in demanding I need to be moved.

Prison is a jungle, the worst ever & 80% of the screws are spectators of their own choice & they get a rush from it. I filled an own interest Relocation Risk Assessment form (Violence Reduction Form). I didn’t name anybody the screw came up to me and said you need to give us names. This was outside another inmate’s cell – he saw & heard everything. I told the screw to get away from me. It was like he was trying to create a situation Incident or whatever you want to call it.

Nobody knows what this environment is like unless you live or work here, no wonder people are killing themselves, cutting themselves or drugging themselves up. I might be headstrong Heledd but I honestly don’t know how long I can keep going like this, I need emotion, love, compassion. I get that every week on a visit that’s it, the rest is dark and scary, sorry for rabbiting on but that’s what it’s like to walk in a prisoner’s shoes that’s just a snippet of what goes on, slashings every other day, people beat with table legs, broom handles, stabbings – its no holds barred. Russell Crowe (Gladiator actor) would struggle and that’s no joke, I wouldn’t be surprised if this letter doesn’t make it to you, I’ll leave it there for now.