In the below article we see the parole board trying to give off a veneer of fairness and to give the impression they are trying to free IPPs when in fact IPPs are still dying and are still trapped in a sentence where they are never free, not even when released.
They think that digitizing their systems (which is happening across all sectors anyway) is going to make an iota of a difference to the people inside – it’s an insult to people’s intelligence. They talk about tagging and managing people safely in the community when in reality being “managed” is the last thing IPPs need to get their lives back. They need to be released and be in communities without scarcity wit plenty of access to support. In an era of precarious jobs and brutal benefits system how are people coming out of jail meant to find a way to live?
The parole board say they might not judge you differently if you “wear a suit” – but at the end of the day the parole board consists of a bunch of middle class people passing judgement on those who have lead completely different lives to them. These privileged people can’t possibly be trusted to make fair decisions about IPPs lives. The decisions for IPPs can mean life or death. The self injury rate for IPPs is 550 of every 1000 (this includes attempts on their own life).
Fuck the parole board and their nonsense! Free the IPPs!
It has been an ‘interesting’ few months in the prison system – and no doubt there will be plenty of comment elsewhere in this issue of Inside Time about current problems in the prison system and the Justice Secretary’s plans for reform. But I know that whatever else is happening, for many prisoners waiting for a parole hearing to be listed, or with a hearing coming up, that will be uppermost in their minds. So, I am grateful to Inside Time for giving me this regular quarterly opportunity to update its readers on developments in the Parole Board.
Clearing the backlog
In my last article in December 2016 I explained that all of us at the Parole Board had been working on a new strategy to reduce our backlogs and help prisoners serving IPP sentences to progress. We were recruiting new members, simplifying a number of processes and moving from paper based to computerised systems.
The changes we are making to some of our processes include now releasing some IPP prisoners ‘on the papers’ and using new tagging technologies in licence conditions to give Parole Board members greater confidence that prisoners on licence can be safely managed in the community. We have also run a pilot to give IPP prisoners greater priority when we list cases for a hearing, and established a team of dedicated Case Managers which are now focusing on progressing IPP cases through to their completion. In addition to the scheduled monthly listing exercise we have now put in place checks so that we can list additional cases in between each exercise, which means we can add in cases when slots become available. Where cases haven’t been listed the case managers are working with our stakeholders to ensure the cases remain ready to list, and will secure a date at the next earliest opportunity.
All of these measures are helping us in making steady progress but I acknowledge it will not be fast enough for those caught in the queues.
Last time I was in a prison, I was asked by prison staff whether it would be a good idea if they made sure every prisoner attending a parole hearing had a suit. It reminded me that many staff and prisoners just don’t know what to expect at a parole hearing. Prisoners themselves often ask me how they should behave in parole hearings and frankly I have also read a lot of nonsense about this from some ex-prisoners.
We are very determined not to forget the individual human beings who make up the numbers in the system and we understand that prisoners, especially those having an oral hearing, are very anxious about the process. Will they be treated fairly? Will they be able to explain their case properly? What will they be asked about? How should they try to come across in the hearing?
You will hear lots of stories about the parole system and what you should do from other prisoners – but I would advise you to listen most of all to your legal rep’s advice. Most prisoners are entitled to legal representation for most parole hearings. If you don’t have a legal rep and can’t afford to pay for one, you should be entitled to legal aid. The Parole Board also publishes useful easy to understand guides to the parole system – ask someone in the offender management unit or your legal rep to print them off for you.
I think you should rely on your legal reps rather than anything you read in this article too, but if there is one piece of advice I would give is that I would try to give as honest and full account of yourself as you can. The panel won’t care if you wear a suit – they want to understand what you are really like and what progress you have made. They won’t expect you to be perfect either or not to face problems if you are released – but they will want to know if you have thought about them and how you plan to deal with them. They will understand if you get upset during a hearing or find it difficult to explain yourself and they will try to make it as easy for you as they can.
They will want to talk to you about your offences and whether you properly understand the impact they had on your victims. Of course, for all sorts of reasons some prisoners find it difficult to talk about this. Parole Board members are very experienced and I think it is very unlikely that you will be able to tell them anything that shocks them. In any case, they are not there to judge your previous offences but to decide if you would be a serious risk in future if you are released or moved to open.
It is important that you also say everything you feel you need to. If there is anything you think is not right in your dossier or in what other people, such as your offender manager have said about it, you or your legal rep will have a chance to say why. If you think there is anything important about you that has been left out of the dossier, you will have an opportunity to make sure the Parole Board knows about it.
The final thing I would say is that if you are facing an oral hearing, you are not the only person feeling anxious. First and foremost, it is a very big day for the victims of your offences too for whom the parole process may open old wounds. Many witnesses will also be nervous too because the parole panel will closely question what they say. And believe it or not, Parole Board members will not be approaching the hearing lightly either. They understand what a big decision they have to make and the affect it will have on you and everyone else involved in your case.