When I think of seeing the light, there are so many scenarios that spring to mind but the other day I was once again reminded how the light can easily be turned out and hope snatched away, in just a few short hours.
This letter is coming to you as a collaboration, not just from me but from a friend who was given a little bit of light and hope the other day; only for it to be taken away within just hours. So, after a conversation with him he’s asked me to do this, as right now he’s in the dark hole of despair and putting pen to paper isn’t going to happen for him today, the guys gutted.
We wait for a parole date, I’d say patiently but if the truth be known it’s frustrating, it’s all consuming, it’s what you and your family focus on, your date.
Well in the build up to that it represents hope, it represents an opportunity for your family to start to think about being a family not a HMP family, it’s the one big focus, selfishly for us behind the doors it sometimes becomes the only focus and as it gets nearer and nearer you eat sleep and breathe it, board is the chance, the hope, the fear and the future all rolled into one intense little room for in reality a short few hours but those hours to an IPP are critical.
Getting your date in itself is a process, there are so many things out of your control, reports to be completed, further requests of further reports, professionals coordinating availability, talking to your solicitor which isn’t easy so your writing, asking your family to get answers, chasing trying to get that date. Parole boards are always under strain, throw a worldwide pandemic into the mix and getting your date becomes even harder, what little bit of inclusion you had is now gone, you are totally in their hands.
It's not just you, only another IPP gets the weight of board, I’m not saying that to be elite but we do kind of form our own little connections, you get to know the other IPP’s where you are, what’s going on with them, when they have board, so when my friend was told that he had been given a parole date, he had got that piece of paper from the parole board stating the date, the time and who would be sitting on the board he was made up, he’s starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, his family can start to see the light the hope starts to get real they dare to make plans, probably more than us if I’m honest we try to keep that hope locked away but yeah we do have those little imagines of a life beyond the walls. Of course, he told his family, of course he told his mates inside, the staff, he got his date and he’s ready for it. Cat D, IPP, over tariff, done your sentence plan, yeah he’s hoping he’s on his way through the gates and home to his family, he can see the light at the end of the dark road he’s been on.
Within 72 hours that light had gone out.
That board, that hope, that opportunity, that moment of recognition, that chance to get out of the nightmare is now removed. That date won’t be sitting now because one professional can’t make the date - it’s their day off. You’re reading it right after everything, the build-up, the time served over and above your tariff, after all you’ve done something outside of your control stops the whole process, and what is that something as menial as a day off. That one day off is going to cost him, weeks if I’m being generous but truthfully it’s going to be months. You don’t get a new date when you lose that date, now back in the system you go and so the date wait starts all over again.
I’m feeling for the guy I know how that feels, I’ve had a date and had it snatched away, mine was less than 24 hours before my actual board was meant to sit, the reason was something had been put my dossier which would influence the panel unfairly. Your dossier Is basically the ‘encyclopaedia’ of information the justice system has complied on you, it includes all prison and probations reports, reports by any other staff, all the information on your current and previous offences and recalls, judges comments, healthcare reports and any reps; to this day I have never been told what this was that was in my dossier and trust me I’ve asked and it still remains one of those VERY frustrating mysteries. Aside from that I’m totally aware that all that he’s going through now could so easily be happening to me and my family in the next few months and if the truth be told it unnerves you. So many lads can’t deal with it, the constant unknown, the constant waiting and fearing what can and does go wrong. No one wants to talk about mental health with IPP, the anxiety, the imploding of your thoughts, the spiral into drug use and self-harm. I’m not saying he is going to do that, what I’m saying is that’s just one of the many triggers to it, IPP is a sentence with so little hope and what tiny glimmers we get are fragile at best.
Getting your board postponed is demoralising, you’ve got to go and break your family’s heart again, inside you want to cry, shout, get angry but you can’t you have to take it all on the chin and show that you can control your emotions, one small slight outburst and that’s going straight into that dossier and that’s going to impact your board.
So, there he is sat in the dark again, hope removed, family devastated, he can’t even tell them for how long for its just another waiting game. The pain eating him up, those dark thoughts going through his head, letting your family down, giving them hope then yet again letting them down.
The sentence is unfair, the situation is unfair, he’s served well over his time, struck down with the scourge of IPP, 7 years of legal history that’s a lifetime of misery for those lads, girls and families that got them unfairly. Over 7 years ago it was abolished, 2012, and here we are in 2020 still living with the consequences of the disaster that was IPP.
How much longer must we all continue to suffer this mental torture and inhumane punishment?
How many times are we going to go unheard?
How many families are going to keep being destroyed by IPP?
How many lives devastated by mental health issues developed inside?
How many more kids asking when Dad’s coming home?
Please let us see the light at the end of the tunnel and sort out IPP once and for all.