“There are thousands of innocent people in jails and prisons. I’m honoured to become an Ambassador for the Innocence Project and want to do what I can to help people like Archie” Simon Cowell, creator of America’s Got Talent, (quoted in Inside Time). Archie Williams served 36 years in prison in the USA for a crime he did not commit. Posted October 2020. Google ‘Innocence Project London’ for further information on the Innocence Project.
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).
To challenge the policy and practice in the current system through which prisoners who maintain their innocence are reviewed and progressed. We also offer information and support to prisoners and their families (see Guidance tab).
- PPMI research: we are currently researching the effect of maintaining innocence on parole board decisions for release or progression to an open prison. If you know a prisoner who has had one or more ‘knock-backs’ from the parole board, please ask them to write to us for information and a consent form. Evidence from a broad range of prisoners who find themselves in this situation is vital for the success of our research.
- Probation and Maintaining Innocence: PPMI is currently investigating ways to support prisoners who maintain innocence, post-release. We also have some information and comments on the experience of being under licence, see the ‘Guidance’ tab.
- 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.