“All Rise” shouts the court usher, as Judge David McEvoy QC, trudges and stomps heavily into the court, he doesn’t look happy at all. Being recently found guilty of a wounding, after trial, I’m aware the next few minutes are gonna hurt. His first address is in anger at the incompetence of the probation officer who had written my pre-sentence report. I wince, and it begins…… I remember the part where he called my name, I looked towards him with a face of regret and remorse, ( only to soften the blow) but his first sentence highlights just how unremorseful and barbaric i am, so slightly switch off , I heard him say 8 years, watched his lips move for what seemed forever and felt the custody officer tug my arm as he led me downstairs. “8 years for Quinn”, he shouts at his supervisor. I quickly do the maths, deduct the remand time, calculate what I have left , and await the sweatbox to prison.
A few days later back on the wing, my offender supervisor (OMU) approaches and introduces himself, he also oddly enquires how I’m feeling, “yeah I’m good, why such concern?”. “It’s a big sentence”, he says, “we haven’t got much information to offer you on it yet… how it’s gonna work, even your category status”. I start to sense danger, so I ask, “what do you mean you haven’t got much information, what you on about?”. “About IPP”, he says. “What the fuck do you mean IPP??”. I’m starting to rage, “I was sentenced to 8 years, straight.” He tries to answer back, but I won’t let him. I heard the court, the custody officers and the senior on reception, say 8 years. “Jog on, check again”, I say. The response, just a subtle shake of the head, “sorry mate”, he pulls out a document, “it’s here in writing”.
That’s how I found out about my IPP, and I’ve met many others who found out the same way.
IPP (imprisonment for the public’s protection, or ‘inhumane prolonged persecution’)
Not even the judge in summing up understood how to pass the sentence, yes I got 8 years, but the kerfuffle in describing the IPP provision, just showed his incompetence. That transcended across the criminal justice system; barristers and solicitors had to reschedule prisoners back into court to have their IPP sentencing explained again. From the very start, not one person knew what was going on. OMU had no guidance and could only guesstimate what the future looked like, clueless wing officers were literally being educated on it by serving prisoners. There were ‘IPPs’ that just couldn’t understand how it all worked or why they were even on it but relied on other prisoners to explain, and everyone had a different jackanory story to offer. Prisoners would traumatise the more gullible IPPs, convincing them they would never get out (which has actually turned out to be true), in the hope they would kick off or cause some form of drama just for wing entertainment. It’s important to explain how IPP sentences affected us all, rather than just me, because you may get to understand how the dynamics of prison changed, and they did – despair kicked in, violence became more violent and more frequent .In all my time in prison, never have i known the environment to ever be as chaotic as this.
When I say prison dynamics, I refer to the daily grind. Prison life is like a community, you have your wing cleaners, servery and kitchen workers, reception orderlies and so on, they all have access to things you need, and we usually all help each other out, which forms a weird kind of solidarity. Especially when we are all subject to the same lock up, all bound under the same regime and disagree with the way prison operates. Lots of drugs are sold in prisons and criminal enterprises still exist, just as much in there as they do outside, so a sense of normality is needed to continue trading. There are many disagreements, and violence occurs, but when it does you can sense it happening, forecast the outcome, and shit gets back to normal.
The local Cat B where I was from 2006 onwards had an influx of IPP prisoners, no release date, no sentence plan, no information on what category we were, just lost in a prison system. No hope, no guidance, nothing to aim for, much distress, and feelings of abandonment. Local Cat B prisons will always be the most volatile because you have a range of different offenders, all serving sentences from 1 week to life. They’re busy, The longer your sentence, the less time spent in Cat B (supposedly). It’s a melting pot. Lots of prisoners kicked off straight away, some slowly built up to it, alarm bells were sounding one after each other, screws running from one wing to the next, out of breath, but prisoner on prisoner fights or on screws breaking out everywhere.
In the midst of this IPP mess, the prison system was also trying to shed staff numbers and save money. Prison officer morale was low, they didn’t know what their future looked like either, some had given years in service and were being offered early retirement with a severance package, to be replaced by cheaper less experienced versions. Everyone knew this, as confidential as it was, the topic was openly discussed and expressed either harshly by some, or through excitement at who got what financial package, officers would use prisoners as sounding boards to offload their feelings, but you sensed they had switched off, lost interest in the role, disgusted at how even they were being treated. It had a massive impact on the environment and on communication, at a time thousands of IPP prisoners were entering the system with many questions, just wanting straight answers so they could start to address the sentence and move forward, but just getting blank empty responses, and of course it didn’t end there, just when you felt like you couldn’t cope with it anymore, overcrowding started.
Prisons all over the country were chocca, which caused prisoners from all over the UK to be sent anywhere. When you have prisoners from all parts of the UK all on the same wing, hundreds of miles away from their families, no idea when transfers back home are happening, disrupted visits, plus officers who seemingly couldnt give fuck anyway, its a shit show.
The environment became unpredictable, everyday something would pop, prisoners tried everything to get out of the jail and be closer to home, refusing bang up, climbing the netting, dirty protests, in this time i have never known so many shit and piss buckets collected to be thrown over screws. This also meant more lock downs and more time behind your door. Fights broke out more often but so did stabbings and slashings. The serious, more vicious attacks became the norm I saw one guy smashed to bits just ‘cause he tried to do a scouse accent. One IPP prisoner while in bed asleep, had boiling hot sugared water thrown over him, when he woke screaming they cut his face, back and throat with razors, he survived, but had over a 100 stitches, all over a disagreement on the chip portion sizes. Cells were being robbed often, prisoners were being robbed, Increased use of boiling sugared water, or being filled in first thing in the morning is why i was up at 7 am ready for the doors to open, as a precaution, you just never knew. Even sex offenders unable to be housed on their independent wings had to be snuck into the main population and warned not to reveal their offence. But you had screws, and only a few, who would go out the way to tip off certain prisoners, and you don’t need me to explain how that worked out. Mobile phones and google confirmed, not pretty.
IPP was issued by a court but received by a prison system with no preparation, resources or guidance on how to implement, and at a time that overcrowding created extreme chaos and prison staff numbers were being severely reduced. It’s important that i set the scene first, before i explain the turmoil that came after, then you will understand how many were set up to fail.
We talk about the armed forces witnessing horrendous things whilst serving and how that affects them mentally. Well prison is not much different, it’s still extreme violence and a toxic environment however you look at it, how a person processes it, is what fuckin matters.
I’ll leave this instalment here, I hope it hasn’t been a waste of your time reading if you have found it interesting PLEASE DO LIKE OR RETWEET, Will do our confidence the world of good.