IPP BY NUMBERS
This section shares the latest figures released by the Ministry of Justice.
We think it is important to document the trends in the IPP sentence, which is why we present available data here. But we also feel strongly that each person serving the sentence matters. You can understand the context behind these figures by reading the stories in our media archive, or by visiting our Twitter project, The Forgotten.
QUARTERLY - IMPRISONED IPP POPULATION
Total in Prison: 2,916
Unreleased - under tariff: 27
Unreleased, over tariff: 1,327
On recall: 1,561
No. of releases: Not yet known
No. of recalls: Not yet known
Total in Prison: 2,892
Unreleased - under tariff: 32
Unreleased, over tariff: 1,362
On recall: 1,498
No. of releases: 40
No. of recalls: 161
Total in Prison: 2,890
Unreleased - under tariff: 43
Unreleased, over tariff: 1,393
On recall: 1,453
No. of releases: 50
No. of recalls: 143
ANNUAL - SELF HARM AND SUICIDE
Self Harm Incidents: 1,629
Self Harm Incidents: 1,907
Self Harm Incidents: 2,123
A MORE DETAILED LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
HOW MANY IPP SENTENCES WERE GIVEN OUT?
8,711 people were given an IPP sentence between 2005 and 2013
249 people who received the sentence were women (2.9%)
326 people who received the sentence were children (3.7%)
309 were aged 15-17 (10 were girls)
16 were boys, aged 12-14
One was a boy, aged 10-11
We do not know how many people from ethnic minority backgrounds were given the IPP sentence, but we do know that 23% of the IPP population currently in prison is from an ethnic minority background. This is a slightly lower proportion than in the prison population as a whole, where 27% are from an ethnic minority background
WHAT CRIMES WAS THE IPP SENTENCE GIVEN FOR?
Under law, IPP sentences could be given out for 153 specified offences. They were actually given out for 107 offences.
3045 were given for violent offences (35%)
2508 were given for sex offences (27.8%)
1882 were given for robbery offences (21.6%)
448 were given for fire setting offences (5.1%)
355 were given for other offences (4.1%)
232 were given for acquisitive offences (2.7%)
226 were given for weapons offences (2.6%)
11 were given for drug offences (0.1%)
Around 70 people were given an IPP sentence for offences where a life sentence is not available today, even as the maximum penalty.
WHAT HAPPENED TO PEOPLE SERVING AN IPP SENTENCE?
There have been 4,974 releases from custody of people serving an IPP sentence since it began. But many were recalled, and some were released again, so this figure does not indicate the number of individuals released.
In March 2023, there were 1,355 people who have never been released since receiving the sentence (16% of all those given it).
The sentence does not end upon release. People may still be recalled to prison indefinitely.
Since 2015 (when reliable data began to be published), there have been 4,434 incidents of recalling people serving an IPP sentence (some may have been recalled multiple times).
The most common reason for recall is non-compliance of license conditions (82% of all recall incidents). Less than half involve further offending.
In March 2023, 58% of the currently imprisoned IPP population had been recalled to prison.
In March 2023, 98% of people serving an IPP sentence who had never been released from prison, were past their tariff expiry date.
48% of those people had served more than 10 years longer than the tariff they were given.
Of these, 189 had originally been given a tariff of less than two years. That’s 14% of the current unreleased IPP sentenced population who have served at least 12 years in prison for a crime that would normally attract a prison sentence of 2 years or less.
HOW HAS THE IPP SENTENCE AFFECTED PEOPLE?
81 people have killed themselves in prison while serving an IPP sentence
People serving an IPP sentence self-harm at a higher rate than people serving other types of life sentences
Recurring themes in studies has shown those serving an IPP sentence suffer emotional anguish and despair that comes from uncertainty and lack of hope about release from prison
WHAT DON'T WE KNOW?
We do not know how many people from an ethnic minority background were originally given an IPP sentence.
We know that in 2021 there were another 283 people serving an IPP sentence in secure hospitals, bringing the total detained IPP population in June 2021 to 3,337. But this figure is not released regularly.
We know that the number of people recalled to prison on an IPP sentence is rising, but we do not know much about them, because the Ministry of Justice often conflates recalled IPP prisoners with other recalled prisoners in their data.
We don't know where around a quarter of people given an IPP sentence are now. We suspect that contributors to this dark figure are deportations, deaths in the community, and sentences that were overturned on appeal.
You can access the ministry of Justice statistical archive, to explore information about the IPP sentence. We are working on adding ad-hoc statistical publications to this section. In the meantime, you can view regularly released information in the Offender Management Statistics Quarterly release (in the summary, and in tables 1.9a and 1.9b).
The Prison Reform Trust also produces a twice-yearly clear and accessible factfile, with up to date information on the IPP sentence, called the Bromley Briefing.