Life Sentenced Prisoners

Those of you are life sentenced prisoners will be aware of the delays and difficulties in progressing towards open conditions or release; the offending behaviour work (including the delays faced by some to get on these courses) and then the time in less secure conditions to show ‘consolidation’ of all these skills.

Those of you who maintain innocence of the index offence you are convicted of will be aware that it is even more difficult (and often very frustrating) trying to progress towards release, without admitting to something you have not done.

I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending that maintaining innocence is an easy route, or that you can progress just as quickly as those who admit guilt for their offences. It isn’t, and you can’t. Inmates who deny their offence will almost certainly go several years over tariff. Whether that is right or wrong, it’s the situation you will find yourself in. Although denial on its own cannot  prevent progression, and this is laid out in PSO 4700, the Parole Board and prison must take the stance that you are guilty of the offence you are convicted of, and this does often mean the assessment process is harder, and professionals are more cautious in their recommendations. Inmates like yourself find themselves in an almost impossible position. Do you pretend you have done something you haven’t? Do you stand firm and face extra years in custody?

You situation is not hopeless. It is not the case that because you maintain innocence you will never be released.  However, it is the case that you have to work very hard and use whatever you can to evidence reduction in risk, and this is where you need to be proactive from an early stage of your sentence. For example; are there offences in your past which you admit to? You can do work focused on these offences, and evidence an understanding of areas of risk that relate to them. Are there aspects in your life at the time of the alleged offence which you accept were not pro-social (for example were you drinking a lot, using illegal drugs or not addressing problems as you now feel you could have)? You can do work on these aspects and work towards a future free from substances, or towards thinking skills that will assist you in the future.

Another important aspect for those who maintain innocence to work on is their behaviour in custody. A prisoner’s behaviour is always scrutinised closely, and you will be all too aware that you are monitored by staff and professionals. For those who maintain their innocence, sometimes behaviour is the only way professionals, and Parole Boards, can assess risk. However, on top of the general pressures of prison life, those maintaining innocence have the extra frustration of being stuck in a system that views them as something they are not, and this can lead to periods of difficult behaviour.  However, it is very important that you remain behaved and compliant to evidence that you are able to be monitored in less secure conditions.

I know this is easy to say, and less easy to do. I know to some of you it may sound patronising. I am not saying you must be perfect. No one is perfect. But I am saying you should be prepared, and should work hard from an early stage in your sentence, to show consistent good behaviour, and to do what work you can to evidence you have thinking skills, you can act in a pro-social manner, and you are not a risk to others in the community. This will minimise delays in your progression.

At Kyle’s we have a dedicated and experienced prison law team who can help and advise you at all stages of your sentence, and give guidance and support to you throughout. There are no guarantees in prison law. But, we have helped those who maintained their innocence progress, including helping some progress to less secure conditions following Parole Board hearings, and we will continue to work hard to do so. So, if you’re willing to work hard too, get in touch with some information on your situation and we can assist you from here.

Annalisa Moscardini, Solicitor.