“I’ve been stuck in my cell for 11 weeks. First 9 days, not out at all, no showers, exercise. Week 2 – only 30 minutes for a shower. Week 3 – 60 mins over 2 days with 5 days straight behind our doors. Weeks 4-9 – only 90 mins out for 3 days each week. Stuck behind our doors the other 4 days. Now we get out briefly every day, apart from Sat/Sun. Please forgive me if this letter don’t make much sense, as my mental health has gone down hill.” (From a prisoner – posted July 2020)
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).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a form of letter that you can adapt and use.
- 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.
- 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.