‘A life sentence through the back door.’ That is how Shirley Debono describes imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences in Episode 3 of Trapped: The IPP Prisoner Scandal.
The podcast series is focused around the impact IPP sentences have on people in prison and their families. Shirley’s son, Shaun, was given a two-and-a half-year IPP sentence for stealing a mobile phone and is still in prison nearly eighteen years later. She talks about the heart-breaking impact being imprisoned for an indeterminate length of time has had on her son’s mental health.
Like Shaun, the 2,916 other people still serving IPP sentences in prison have no idea when they will get out, leading to the term ‘ghost prisoners.’ I cannot imagine what it must be like to be trapped somewhere, let alone in prison, without knowing when you might be released.
Aaron is the longest serving IPP detainee, having spent 19 years in prison without parole on a 30-month tariff. His sister, Cherrie, tries to remain hopeful for him. She has provided new accommodation for him on his release, in a peaceful field where she lives. But Aaron is losing hope, describing his sentence as ‘psychological torture,’ and they have no assurance of his release.
Sam Asumadu, who hosts the podcast, also dives into the history behind IPP sentences. Introduced by Lord Blunkett in 2005, and then abolished in 2012 by Lord Clark.
Trapped is a deeply challenging and necessary listen, giving great insight into IPP sentencing, with contributions from a wide range of people, including those serving IPP sentences, their families, criminologists, retired judges and members of parliament.
Ryan Galpin is a member of PF’s Support Team. You can find Trapped here of search Trapped: The IPP Prisoner Scandal on Spotify or your usual podcast provider.
This article was first published in our quarterly magazine in:sight. You can sign up to receive our free magazine by post or via email by visiting prisonfellowship.org.uk/subscribe