Quote of the month

COVID 19 – The prison experience:  Notes from a ‘shielded prisoner’ who is maintaining innocence.

No education or distance learning.  No gym.  No visits.  One phone call a day, sometimes curtailed due to queuing in 30 minute window.  No library.  Exercise outside cell: 5 minutes maximum.  On the wing: no cell visits, tea/coffee chats, no warmth or social exchange.  Not left wing for 6 weeks.  23 hours and 30 minutes every day behind cell door.  22 hours lying on bed: boredom and bed sores.  Total secrecy re COVID progress in prisons – breeding suspicions.  Last Wednesday – 24 hours lock down with no explanation, shower or phone.   (Posted on this site May 2020.)

 

Innocent?

Miscarriages of justice happen. Even in the best legal systems. Most people believe that there are systems in place to put things right. The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) was set up following the notorious cases of the Guilford 4 and the Birmingham 6 to do just that.

But it doesn’t work like that in reality. The CCRC is often unable to help victims of wrongful conviction. The prisoner has been found guilty by a court and therefore remains guilty in the eyes of the public as well as the Criminal Justice System; and it does not stop there.

Release from prison on tariff expiry (the minimum term set by the judge) for those serving life or indeterminate sentences is usually only from Category D prisons, unless exceptional circumstances apply.  This means that, to achieve release, a prisoner must first progress from a higher category (A or B) to a lower category (D).  But recat and parole decisions rely on risk-assessments, and these are based on findings of guilt – there are no tools for those maintaining innocence.  For this reason, release can be more difficult to achieve for these prisoners, and there are some who serve many years beyond tariff expiry.  Similar problems are faced by prisoners serving a determinate sentence with a parole element (usually the last third of the sentence).

Our Aim

To challenge the policy and practice in the current system through which prisoners who maintain their innocence are reviewed and progressed.

News and Views

  • Covid 19: For some information about the situation in prisons the following links to government websites may be helpful: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-and-prisons
  • Elderly relative or friend in prison?  If you have an older relative or friend in prison, we encourage you to write to the Governor of the prison and to the Lord Chancellor requesting their early release because of the risk to their health from Covid !9 virus.   Please email ppminnocence@googlemail.com for a form of letter that you can adapt and use.
  • Evidence from forensic science experts was given to the Westminster Commission on Miscarriages of Justice (an All Party Parliamentary Group) on Tuesday 4 February.   Detective forensic science is one of the biggest causes of miscarriages of justice today. For a transcript of their evidence please go to the APPG Miscarriages of Justice website: https://appgmiscarriagesofjustice.wordpress.com
  • Inside Time, June 2019.  There is a PPMI article on p.42 of the prisoners’ newspaper: “Prisoners maintaining innocence blocked by poor risk assessments”. It is available on the Inside Time website.