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The Justice Select Committee Inquiry into the IPP Sentence: A Guide to Responding

The Justice Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the IPP sentence. We are working to help people affected by the sentence to submit evidence to the inquiry. Here's what's in place, and how you can put your views across.

This text is copied from our guide to making a submission, which you can also download here. This guide is for people in the community. There is a separate guide for people in prison here.

Who are the Justice Select Committee (JSC) and what are they doing?

The JSC is a group of MPs from several political parties. They look at what the Ministry of Justice does and hold it to account. They hold inquiries on topics they are concerned about. On 21st September 2021, they launched an inquiry into the IPP sentence.

What is an inquiry and how do they work?

An inquiry starts with a problem, and a list of questions about that problem (called ‘Terms of Reference’). The Committee invites people to answer their questions in writing. Then they invite some people to give spoken evidence. Finally, they consider the evidence and publish a report. The report describes what they found, and what they think should happen.

What’s the point? Will they actually listen to anything we say?

We think that the JSC is really interested in the IPP sentence, and that this is the most attention it has had since it was banned. We don’t know what they will say, or if the Government will listen. Even though there is no guarantee of success, we think it is a good opportunity. The more people that give evidence, the stronger the message will be.

How can I give evidence?

You can give evidence by:

Writing your own response and submit it directly to the JSC. Use the guide further down this post to help you. Submit your response here:

Answering the questions on our online form. We will draw on your evidence for UNGRIPP”s submission to the inquiry. Find our form by clicking here.

Coming to one of our online sessions and contributing verbally to UNGRIPP’s submission to the inquiry. Find details and sign up by clicking here.

Which of those is the best way to submit evidence?

We are trying to provide a range of ways to give evidence that suit different circumstances, so pick the one that feels best for you. Here are some things to think about.

Submitting directly to the JSC

Advantages: Gets your full story heard and have a direct say. Sends a strong message if lots of people write directly

Disadvantages: Might feel more exposing (see below about evidence published online). Might feel harder to write.

Contributing to UNGRIPP’s submission in writing

Advantages: Get your points across without being identified. More structure to help you respond. Less pressure on how you write it (we merge your responses and give a summary). Helps us make a strong case for how many people are suffering and showing how.

Disadvantages: We won’t be able to include every point made by every person. We might miss something that you felt was really important. Your views will be represented, but not as directly as writing to the JSC yourself.

Contributing to UNGRIPP’s submission verbally

Advantages: Get your points across even if you feel less confident with writing/technology. Support from other people also there to have their say.

Disadvantages: The same as contributing to UNGRIPP's submission in writing. We can’t protect your identity from the other people who attend.

If you feel confident writing directly to the JSC, we recommend doing that. Otherwise, we suggest filling in our form, which will contribute to our submission. If you feel less confident with expressing yourself in writing, sign up to one of our online sessions. Spaces for the online session are limited so please only use this option if you feel it’s needed.

My loved one is in prison. How can they submit evidence?

We have made a separate guide for people in prison, which you can find here, and send to your loved one. Basically, they can write to the JSC, and use our guide to help them write their evidence.

When is the deadline for giving evidence?

Deadline if you are submitting a response to UNGRIPP: 15th October 2021

Deadline if you are writing directly to the JSC: 26th October 2021

Deadline for people in prison writing to the JSC: 30th November 2021

What happens to my evidence?

The JSC will read all the evidence and use it to understand the problem, then write their report. They publish all the evidence they receive online. If you are writing directly to the JSC and you don’t want your name to be published, make sure you tell them in your response. They will still publish your evidence, just without your name. If you submit your response via UNGRIPP, we will not use any identifying information in our submission.

How can I find out the results of the inquiry?

The JSC will publish their report on their website and tell the media about the main things they found. We will put their findings on our website and social media channels, and Inside Time are also very likely to write about the findings.

Will the inquiry get rid of the IPP sentence for people still serving it?

Not by itself. Only the Government can do that. The inquiry might recommend that option to the Government. Or it might recommend changing other bits of the sentence (like the licence). It is not possible to say what will happen. But we think it is good that the JSC has invited views on what would happen if the sentence was gotten rid of.

Where can I get more information on the Inquiry?

You can follow the progress of the inquiry, read the full call for evidence and terms of reference here:

The rest of this guide is to help you if you are writing directly to the JSC, not to UNGRIPP.

How long should my response be?

No more than 3,000 words. Don’t worry if it’s shorter – that’s the maximum limit. If you write a lot more, the Committee might not accept your evidence, so try and keep to 3,000 words.

Do I need to explain what the IPP sentence is, and give general facts and figures?

No. The Committee already knows the history of the IPP sentence. Focus on giving your views, opinions, and experiences on the areas that the Committee has asked about.

What should I say?

We recommend starting with some details about your (or your loved one’s) sentence. But this is very personal information. Don’t give it if you’re not comfortable, or if you don’t have your loved one’s permission, and make sure that they understand it may be published (without their name). The reason we suggest giving this is so that the Committee can understand the experiences of particular groups of IPP sentenced prisoners. Things you could tell them are:

· Index offence and tariff length.

· Age at sentencing and age now.

· Location (prison or outside).

· Length of time in prison.

· Number of Parole hearings.

· Details of any recalls (how many, what for, and time until re-release).

The Committee has asked about seven areas of the IPP sentence. We’ve broken down their questions below. We recommend answering them, and then adding anything else you want to say at the end. You don’t have to answer every question, if that feels too overwhelming. Just answer what you can.

· What things could help to reduce the number of IPPs in prison?

· What do you think is the best option for doing this?

· What stops people getting released?

· How could getting released be made easier?

· What would happen if the IPP sentence was gotten rid of for everybody?

· What do people on an IPP sentence experience in prison?

· How does the IPP sentence affect people’s mental health?

· How are release and resettlement planned and managed for IPPs?

· What impact does not having a release date have on resettlement?

· How are IPPs managed once they get released?

· Why are IPPs recalled?

· If they are recalled, what support do IPPs get to prepare them for re-release?

I’m worried that I’ll miss something, or not explain myself very well.

Don’t worry about how ‘good’ it sounds. There are no rules about how to write your evidence, except the 3,000 word limit. If you miss something, the chances are that other people will say it in their responses. It does help the Committee if you make a few clear points for each question, so you might want to plan those out first, or talk through what you want to say with someone you trust, who can help you plan your answers.

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