I’ve not written my own piece for a while, it’s not for any other reason than I knew I would be writing this and I knew it was only a matter of time until ‘that’ time came.
So it’s at parole time, not something I’ve not been through before and not something that I can just ignore, everything is all about parole.
So you’d think I would be excited, planning even but that’s not how this goes, the run into parole is just stress on every level.
I’m a proactive person, I like to do as much as I can, hate sitting still, always on the go, if I’m not busy I feel incomplete, there’s probably something deeper going on there with my personal make-up but I’m not about to hijack this piece with that.
Parole run in means one thing and one thing only, dealing with every emotion possible when it comes to Rob.
It’s now 10 days until his solicitor will start to write his reps, the reports from his inside and outside probation will have to be in by the 28th August and those reports will be what decides the next few months of our lives.
The system now takes over, his dossier will be reviewed by one person at the parole board and they will decide what comes next. The options are as follows:
- Release on the papers
- Referral to an oral hearing which means he wont be heard until early next year so that’s another Christmas away
- A straight no where another date will be set for review and that will be somewhere between 12-24 months away dependant on their recommendations.
So obviously we are hoping for the first but chances are slim and I can’t encourage Rob to be positive about it as I don’t want to get his hopes up. If it is a yes this is what will happen, after the answer we then have a 21 day cooling period, this is limbo time where anyone can contest the decision and nothing happens until that 21 days passes. Because of the impact of lockdown Rob will not be coming to live with us, he will be going to an approved premises, or a hostel as many of you will know it. That hostel is 60 miles from home and we will have to wait for a space. So very probably, and this happens a lot, he will have to wait. That could be weeks or months, spaces are limited and again because of social distancing spaces are even more limited, so more unknown.
My gut tells me that he will be directed to oral, I hate to think that but my gut says that’s what will happen even though the professionals who will monitor him have said they can support release the likelihood is they will go to panel. So this is now another delay, you go for listing, right now it’s January so it could be February at best or March before they sit. Then the same 21 day wait ensues if it’s a yes and the same wait for a hostel space, I daren’t say to Rob but that could easily be late May/June 2021, but deep down he knows this, that would then be 30 months served for a 6 week sentence with perfect behaviour inside, this is not a guy who fights his way through his time this is a guy who does it text book, has positive reports and no adjudications.
A straight no terrifies me if I’m honest, it’s a possible as well. He’s not completed his sentence plan to be tested in the community so he could be deferred with a no and told to stay in whilst the system returns to some normality and then he can complete the plan as directed in September 2019, which right now feels like a lifetime ago.
So a lot rides on this decision and this is where it gets hard. Rob is in what I call ‘Parole Mode’. He eats, sleeps and breathes this parole. He is tired, stressed and irritable. He will become more distant and if you are the type of partner who needs a boost yourself this is not the relationship for you.
He becomes distant mentally, less calls and when he does call that monotone empty voice will be on full display regularly. Now I understand all this but don’t be deceived that I am the perfect partner and don’t react, I do at times, it’s not easy hiding your frustration and knowledge of your own stresses, no one is having it easy here. He’s not like this all the time but it’s there and it is hard to smile and wave your way through it. He know’s that he might not get out so he starts Rob’s version of damage limitation and that casts a shadow of misery over the coming weeks. It starts with the little comments, looking for reassurance I’m sure but nevertheless it is trying. ‘You’d be better off without me’, ‘Bet you wish you’d never met me’, ‘You should be with someone better than me’. This is Rob’s way of preparing himself for rejection, rejection from the board and rejection from me. He’s preempting the outcome and giving me the out, classic Rob. He know’s I’m not going anywhere, he knows I’m not looking to replace him but the fear is there and the guilt, oh the guilt is palpable. The guilt is a unbearable for Rob, I don’t need to do anything here he’s doing all the work himself. That IPP sentence is my sentence too, however I’m doing it in a totally different way and with totally different pressures. We’re a couple we talk about the same dull things everyone talks about, lack of sleep, bills, kids driving you mad, repairs on the house, you know standard stuff but to Rob I might as well get a big fat highlighter pen out and scribble over each line and put huge arrows pointing to his failings. Why? Well the most natural reason, he’s unable to provide, he’s unable to help, he’s unable to be a partner, he’s unable to be a dad. Our little girl is 14 months old and she’s a handful like any other inquisitive little person. She wakes up at 6am everyday without fail, she’s teething and she whinges over anything. I love her to bits she’s hilarious but at 44 it’s a tough gig. I get tired, there are days when I could do with a lie in and a bit more than 5 hours broken sleep and at child no 4 there is not one episode of Peppa pig I’ve not seen I am sure of it, someone to take her downstairs and enjoy an episode or 23 at 6am would be good every now and then.
It’s 8:25am on Friday 21st August and I’ve just come back to this after a surprise morning call from Rob himself and the next predictable factor has come into play. He’s received a copy of his report from inside probation and we now enter another phase of doubt. So knowing what’s coming I go straight for the positives, he comes back with his standard ambiguous response, not because he’s being awkward just because he will not want to get his hopes up. The thing with reports for parole is that they talk about your offences, your darkest sides, your risks, the threat you pose, and they are not nice to see, read or realise that this is on the record and this is going to be a deciding factor in your release and on paper you don’t sound so good. There is other positive stuff in there, reports on progress, reports on your behaviour in prison but all he see’s is the dark stuff, that’s what he focuses on and that’s what starts to feed into self doubt and the cycle of fear, rejection, withdrawal and self preservation starts all over again.
I went to get my hair done yesterday, random thing to add at this point but as I booked back in again it became very poignant. 6 weeks on was the 1st October, a date that should give us some idea of what’s happening. We don’t have a specific date for an answer but October looks good and 6 weeks isn’t that long. I know there will be a rollercoaster of emotions to ride with Rob in that time, I know it will break me not seeing him, just to give him a reassuring hug, to hold his hand, just the simple things any partner would do for their partner in their darkest hour of need, sadly though I can’t.
The pieces Rob has written recently show the stress he’s under, it shows the increase in his anxiety as the time gets closer and it will not stop until this part in concluded. That’s not the end of it though, its just a page turned on another chapter in the horror story of IPP.
As part of Rob’s papers I have written a letter to the reviewing member that hopefully will be considered, I’ve attached it to this as I set this up with the promise of an insight into an IPP journey, also it might help someone else.
All we want is fairness, all we want is a chance, getting that though is he biggest challenge we face.
To the members of the reviewing panel,
I am Robert Dutton’s long-term partner, we also have a child together. I am hoping you will be able to take my views into account when making your decision regarding release.
Our daughter was born whilst Rob was in custody, when the previous board directed that Rob should be progressed to Category D detention although we were naturally disappointed we were able to make plans for our future as a family.
The direction was for Rob to be tested in the community, initially with ROTLS’s to an AP and then to our home address.
Due to the current crisis none of this has happened and to date it appears will not be happening for the remainder of the year.
We have not had a visit as a family since early March 2020 in that time our daughter has reached many milestones and he has been unable to share in anything, I don’t need to highlight the impact this has on building a bond with his daughter, initially he was able to see her weekly, now that’s not an option he has become a voice on a phone on a very limited basis.
I have spoken with his offender manager and I am aware that there is an option to place Rob in an approved premises; this will then allow him to be strictly monitored whilst completing Rotls, I’m appealing to you to consider this as a viable option. Myself and my children are also being tested and punished by the IPP sentence that Rob carries and the ongoing impact that it has had on our daughter will only increase with his continued detention; we have had such minimal contact and the longer this continues the more this will have a detrimental effect on our family.
All relevant checks have been made regarding myself and my home and I have a positive relationship with Rob’s offender manager, I have kept in touch with him throughout his time in custody and will continue to upon his release to approved premises should you see fit.
I understand that you have to make your decision based upon reports and professional opinion without meeting Rob, I appreciate that it is a huge responsibility. I know Rob and I know his challenges, I know how he has changed his approach and awareness around his behaviour and offending. This spell in custody has seen Rob mature and understand the impact his life is having on himself and others, he’s faced many difficult tests, the deaths of both of our mothers and the birth of his daughter are just two examples, yet he has not faltered from his commitment to change, something that previously he has not been able to sustain. He is a humble man with self-awareness and understanding of what he has to do to progress positively in life, he is ready to show that he can be the consistently positive, trustworthy, respectful man those that know him know he can be. Rob’s behaviour and offending can be difficult to understand, for someone that can be so productive and positive it’s difficult to see a side of him that’s so concerning when alcohol is involved. I’ve never seen Rob truly attempt to address this properly until this sentence, he reached rock bottom and the only way up was to face and address his torrid relationship with alcohol and how that directly correlates with his many returns to custody. He’s made a good start and has remained committed to not only his abstinence but to the much-needed support network around that. I appreciate that nothing is risk free and that Rob will always have a level of risk attached to him, I do however believe that he has done all that is possible to lower that risk, and keep it managed with what he has achieved in custody this time. A strong package of support from his offender manager alongside initially the approved premises, coinciding with outside agency support and family support will in my opinion make Rob’s transition back into the community a manageable risk and I hope that you are able to make a decision that reflects this.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.