Human Rights – What Human Rights?

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Written By RobertMaxfield

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We often hear of people, mostly foreigners, applying to the Court of Human Rights for some reason or other, and even in some cases getting thousands in compensation, but this is not the case for many amongst us.

Our two sons, Simon now 25 yrs and Paul 27 yrs., have been ‘resident’ in separate prisons since May 2005, although their tariffs (minimum terms) were 1yr. 295 days and 2 ½ yrs. respectively. They still have no definite date set for release.

Now whilst you may have no sympathy for offenders, I hope you will agree that there is something seriously wrong with our legal system to allow this situation to continue, especially when the prisons are so full.

To give you the reason for my outburst, let me tell you a little background information to this case:-

In 1990, we adopted two half-brothers, Simon and Paul, 5 and 7 yrs. old respectively, from a very neglected background where their parents were heroin addicts and the boys were virtually left to live by their wits.

They had been in countless foster homes, whilst their parents were either in prison or ‘out of it’ on drugs.

Paul being the oldest, has suffered more abuse, both physically and mentally from his natural parents and also from some of the foster parents who ‘cared’ for them.
Both have seen things that children should not be subjected to at such young ages.

Despite our best efforts, they had both had dealings with the police, probation, youth offending teams etc., even whilst living with us.

Finally, they were given Indeterminate IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) Sentences for a joint violent crime, committed after drinking heavily with a friend whose parents owned a local pub.

IPP sentences were only brought in shortly before our sons were sentenced, in April 2005 actually, and the Judge told them that, had it been a month earlier, they would have received Determinate sentences of approx. 5 yrs (out of prison in two and one half yrs).

The thinking behind the minimum terms set in IPP sentences, is that during that time the offender will have completed various ‘Life’ courses (victim awareness, drink and drugs, anger management etc), so that they can reduce their risk to the public and earn their subsequent release.

What has actually happened, is that there are so many IPP prisoners now, that because of the waiting lists for these courses, very few can fulfil the conditions, meaning that they cannot be released.

We occasionally hear now of short prison sentences, if not only community service or conditional discharge being given to Murderers, Paedophiles and Rapists.

What is the world coming to!?!

Simon, the youngest, was 19 yrs old when he went to a Juvenile Lifers’ Category B Prison, where he received excellent counselling and education.
He passed GCSE’s in Maths and English, became a Teaching Assistant for less able students and acted as a Mentor to New Inmates, whilst also completing all of the necessary ‘Life Courses’.
Eventually, with the Governor’s and various other Officials’ recommendations for release, he went to his first Parole Board in 2007.

Here, he was told that they commended him on what he had achieved but that they wanted to see how he would cope in an Adult prison, sending him to a Cat. C prison

Simon was quite philosophical about this decision and said that he viewed prison as being his time at University. He accepted the blame for what he had done and wanted to show that he was making amends for his previous wrongdoings.

Again he did everything asked of him and more in his next prison. He did cleaning, servery, gym instructor and various other duties, going quite hopefully to his last parole board in 2009.

Here he was told by the Parole Board, that they were not willing to take the gamble that he would not reoffend, with the result that, despite the recommendations of his Governor and many other officials that Tom was ready for release, he was sent to an open prison, Cat. D.

Whilst there he did various duties, in the kitchens, cleaning, caring for people with Learning Difficulties at a nearby Home, painting and decorating etc, all with the object of giving him some work experience for life outside the prison.

There were several weeks, when he either came out with us, his Mum and Dad on Saturdays, or went by train to his sisters’ in Nottingham.

Through a friend, Simon obtained a position as a labourer on a new stretch of motorway between Nottingham and Leicester and was arranging his accommodation to be able to take up that employment.

Unfortunately, some weeks later, inmates at the camp had returned from their day out with bottles of vodka, from which Simon had a drink.
Later that evening, after he had gone to bed, fighting broke out in his block, when a boy needed to be taken to hospital because of his injuries.

When all inmates were breathalysed, Simon and many others were found to be over the limit.

Three inmates who had not taken part in the fighting, including Simon, were taken to Lincoln prison.

From there, they were transferred to their original prisons to await a Sentence Review.

After a few days, Simon was informed that he would not now be sent back to his Cat. D prison, but would remain where he was until his next Parole Board, expected in Feb. or May 2011.

The Governor & other officials are again, like last time, ‘backing’ his release, especially as he can do no more to reduce his risk of reoffending, or to the public, and he has completed all of the required ‘Life ‘courses.

His Probation Officer has told him that, even if he is released, he will probably be sent to a hostel rather than a private address, where he will not be able to work but must Sign Unemployed. (This seems ridiculous to everyone I know!)
The reason for this decision, is so that the Authorities can ‘keep an eye on him’, with other courses, breathalyser tests etc.
Even when he is eventually allowed home, he will still have to attend the Probation Service at least weekly, so this will be extremely restricting as far as getting employment is concerned. He will certainly be unable to take work involving travel.

It seems that because of the history of his earlier years, before he matured into the sensible person that he is these days, Simon will not be allowed to lead a ‘normal’ life, but will be held back even longer, so that it is difficult to see how his life will ever be ‘normal’ again.

Paul, on the other hand, is even further back in his progression through prison.

At 21yrs. he was sent to Winson Green, Birmingham, an adult Cat. B prison, where there were no facilities for the ‘Life Courses’ to be taken.

He was there for 14mths., before being transferred to an Adult Lifers’ Prison, (Cat. B) at the end of 2006.

He was overjoyed to be sent there but soon found that there was an 18 mth waiting list for the courses, as well as one to be able to start doing any kind of work.

Despite appeals from Paul and myself over the years, because of his depressed state of mind, two Parole Board Meetings were ‘passed over’ for him because he had not completed all of the Courses.

He was, however, very pleased when he was transferred to another prison (Cat B) this year, where he will, hopefully, soon be able to take his last course for Anger Management.

There is a Parole Board due for him in approx. May 2011, when he will hope to be sent to a Cat. C or Cat. D prison.

As he is now 27 yrs. old, Paul is wondering when (or if!) he is likely to be released.

How long can this state of affairs be allowed to continue for IPP prisoners?

I was told that no more IPP sentences are now being given because of the problems caused by the number given previously, but this does not help the thousands already wasting their lives in these circumstances.

We hear of Prison Suicides, Bullying and Riots but can we really be surprised when inmates lives are put ‘on hold’ like this through no fault of their own?

I realise that for many a High Risk Factor is still present and release not appropriate, but can it be right to keep so many others ‘cooped up’ for so long?

I hope that our boys will readjust to life ‘on the outside’ but I will not be surprised if their time spent in such circumstances, will blight their lives for ever.

Whilst you may have no sympathy for offenders, I hope you will agree that there is something seriously wrong with our Legal System to allow this situation to continue, especially when our prisons are so full.

We hear of Prison Suicides, Bullying and Riots but can we really be surprised when inmates lives are put ‘on hold’ like this through no fault of their own?

I realise that for many a High Risk Factor is still present and release not appropriate, but can it be right to keep so many others ‘cooped up’ for so long?