As most of you will already know, my partner is serving an IPP sentence and is two years over tariff with his next parole hearing not even scheduled yet (we’re hoping the end of this year, August would be a miracle). In my posts ‘Life spent loving someone behind bars’ https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/life-spent-loving-someone-behind-bars/ and My experience of IPP sentencing https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/my-experience-of-ipp-sentencing/ I discuss how my partner’s IPP sentence is a sentence for both of us and we both live under a cloud without even a definite release date at some point in the distance to keep us hopeful.
In a Guardian article from 14th March 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/mar/14/grayling-injustice-imprisonment-for-public-protection-prisoners-blunkett , Joshua Rozenberg reports on an interview David Blunkett had with BBC’s Newsnight programme in which, when asked about IPP admitted:
“We certainly got the implementation wrong…The consequence of bringing that Act [his Criminal Justice Act 2003] …in has led, in some cases, to an injustice and I regret that,”
The Guardian reported that ‘three of Blunkett’s implementation errors were outlined by Lord Lloyd, a retired law Lord, in a speech to the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law…The first was that offences did not have to be very serious to trigger an IPP, they included what Lloyd described as “run-of-the-mill” crimes such as burglary, robbery or arson’. This was the case with my partner and many on IPP sentences. They would probably have been out quicker if they’d have murdered someone.
‘The second problem was that a judge was bound to assume that there was a significant risk of re-offending if the offender had been convicted of one or more such crimes in the past’. What right has anyone to assume that your past will be your future behaviour too? I’m sure many if not most of us have made mistakes in the past that we’re not proud of but luckily for us we’re no longer being judged on them.
‘And the third problem Lloyd identified was that there was no minimum tariff. So an IPP could be awarded for criminal behaviour that was not regarded as very serious at all. Offenders would serve the period they would be expecting for an offence of this nature -two or three years on average, but sometimes much less – and then find themselves still in prison with little prospect of release.’ Hearing horror stories of people serving six years or more over tariff terrifies and sickens me. I wonder how both of us will cope if my partner ends up serving a sentence of that length. You usually somehow find a way through it but at what cost? Most nights I can’t sleep without medication to help me to and my partner is becoming depressed too. I just wonder what kind of justice system we have when someone who hasn’t physically hurt anyone is still locked away nearly 8 years after his crime purely on the basis that he ‘might’ re-offend.
The Guardian also rightly says that since IPPs were repealed and can no longer be passed:
‘If anything that makes things worse for prisoners still serving IPPs. If they had been sentenced after December 2012…they could look forward to serving their time and being released. The same would apply if they had been convicted before April 2005…But what about those caught in the middle? At the end of last year, there were more than 3,500 IPP prisoners whose tariff expiry date had already passed’.
The Guardian adds ‘Locking up people simply because they may commit crimes in the future has no place in a free society’. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. IPP sentencing makes me ashamed to be British and also makes me consider very carefully who I will vote for in future as most politicians seem extremely lazy where righting this wrong is concerned.
‘Lord Faulks QC junior minister of the Ministry of Justice said “the release of individual IPP prisoners was a matter for the parole board, which is independent of the prison service”.
I find Lord Faulks’ attitude cowardly and lazy. Just because the Ministry of Justice can’t be bothered to put right a mistake that has gone on for far too long.
‘If he chooses to, Grayling could amend the public protection test in the 1997 Act and let out all IPP prisoners who have served their tariffs…Letting them out now would save not just the cost of 3500 prison places but the cost of pre-release courses and additional costs incurred by the parole board in dealing with an increased workload that has not yet peaked’.
In The Independent of Sunday 13th April 2014 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/indefinite-detention-must-be-ended-argue-campaigners-9256706.html?origin=internalSearch Laura Wilkinson reports:
‘Some refer to it as the waiting game; others call it limbo…Widely recognised as a mistake, the IPP scheme trebled the lifer population overnight and quickly swamped the Parole Board’s ability to cope. The Prison Reform Trust says more than 5000 prisoners are currently serving indeterminate sentences despite the abolition of IPP. By the end of last year, more than two thirds-3561 prisoners-had passed their tariff expiry date, and are waiting to have their cases heard by the Parole Board. Of these 958 were originally given a tariff of less than two years. Experts estimate it will take at lease nine years for the backlog to be cleared’.
Nine more years of waiting without a clear end date fills me with dread. The hardest thing I have ever been through is waiting for my partner in prison. Yes I have a choice, I could walk away but you can’t choose who you love and he means the world to me. To be apart from him when I am already physically and mentally ill is just worsening existing problems.
‘Lord Wigley, who has campaigned against IPP sentences said: “They have no idea of how many years they will remain incarcerated. It is hardly surprising that as many as 24 people on IPP sentences have committed suicide while in custody. It is easy to understand why many people deem IPPs to be “life sentences via the back door”.
The statistics on suicide don’t surprise me. IPP makes me feel suicidal and I’m not even the one serving the actual sentence!
In Inside Time’s April 2014 issue Eric McGraw reports: http://www.insidetime.org/articleview.asp?a=1723&c=ipp_sentence_unjust_and_stupid
‘Crispin Blunt, the former Conservative Prisons minister, who worked under Kenneth Clarke to abolish the IPP two years ago, told BBC newsnight on March 13th this year [the same Newsnight that interviewed David Blunkett, mentioned above] that the Act was “both unjust and stupid”. He added “There were 6,500 of these prisoners when I became the Prisons Minister, with 3000 beyond tariff, and the Parole Board were releasing one in twenty of those who applied for release. So the system was simply filling up”.
With odds like this, no wonder some IPP prisoners feel suicidal.
I accidentally posted something met for my fashion blog also on this site. I apologise to those who are signed up for updates from this blog and will be posting something properly very soon. Thanks for bearing with me
There are times I consider giving up on blogging. I don’t have a huge audience, I’m not sure if I’m any good. The same applies to art, I have been strongly considering declining to attend the group interview that I’ve been invited to for the foundation degree. And finally the same applies to my weight loss. This week my bad attitudes have been called into question after hearing from some incredibly inspiring people.
Firstly, the blogging. I love it, it’s a passion of mine as well as a creative outlet. It helps me to stay safe as I learn to express myself better. But my followers are few and far between (thank you to those who have stuck by me I would be interested to know more of your thoughts about the blog-what you like/dislike, would like to see more/less of. Anyway, I hardly ever get comments on what I’ve written so yesterday when a blogger who I admire hugely http://www.britishbeautyblogger.com/ left a comment, it really meant a lot to me, especially considering how positive it was:
Well, treatments are a very fitting topic for today as it was only yesterday that I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, care manager (social worker) and tenancy support worker.
Thankfully my blood tests had come back ok so I was allowed to start Lithium. Because I’m on anti-inflammatories for my AS I have been started on a lower than usual dose which will be gradually increased over time. For now, they’re keeping me on my Aripiprazole (Abilify) until they think that the Lithium is working enough to reduce it.
I’m relieved I’m not being weaned off my current medication and I’m nervous about starting lithium, especially after all of the warnings about lithium toxicity. I’m hoping that no trips to A&E will be necessary.
I’m also nervous about lithium because I’ve been on it years ago. At the time it left me feeling doped up and out of it and I wasn’t even at a therapeutic dose. I worry that it will do the same again because I really don’t want it to get in the way of my writing.
The reason I’m trying it again is complete and utter desperation. I’m sick of my moods swinging like a yo-yo and just want to reach some form of stability. Well, to at least be more stable than I am at the moment. I’m sick of the anxiety, the paranoia, the isolation, the suicidal thoughts, I just want it all to stop.
It won’t be as easy for them to treat me with lithium because as well as Bipolar disorder I also have BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Because of this and because of the fact that things from my past are still affecting me I once again asked about counselling.
I have been on the waiting list for 2 years and my social worker has been trying to chase it up but so far no news which is really stressing me out. It annoys me when people think that medication will be a cure-all. It may help a great deal but it won’t change the past or how I deal with things. It won’t help me to learn to recognise triggers or early-warning signs, only therapy can do that.
My social worker said she will chase it up again so I’ll see what she has to say by next week when I see her. If I wasn’t so broke I would consider paying to go private. Some therapists even offer fees on a sliding scale for people who are on benefits.
Recently I have been discussing another form of treatment with a researcher into mental health bloggers, how much blogging helps me. At the moment it is probably my only positive outlet and helps me to express myself and learn more about how my mind works and why I think/behave the way that I do. The research that I’m taking part in will eventually be published in a journal so I’ll keep you posted with what happens where that is concerned.
The other major event that happened this week is that my laptop gave up on me. I tried to get it fixed but the fault was too serious so instead I’ve bought a refurbished one and I’m hoping it lasts till I can get another new one.
It’s meant that financially things are tight but I couldn’t be without a laptop and I couldn’t be without blogging. It’s my distraction, it’s my purpose, it’s my encouragement and it’s my hope. Do you blog? What does it mean for you? Feel free to comment and thanks for listening 🙂
This week is Responsible Business Week. At the start of this week a report developed by Business in The Community (BITC) in association with Mind, the Work Foundation and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD); outlines how businesses which prioritise employee wellbeing reap rewards – including improved employee motivation, reduced sickness absence rates, greater staff retention rates and productivity. (Reported by Mind- Mind.org.uk website).
Inside the ‘Mental health:We’re ready to talk’ report, Louise Aston, Workwell director, Business in the Community says:
‘This culture of silence – on an individual and
organisational level – results in suffering, inequality
and discrimination. By not taking simple steps to
discuss mental wellbeing, issues that could otherwise
be resolved simply can soon develop into ill health,
absence and disengagement. Organisations that ignore
the need for preventative action on mental health risk
long term problems, including reduced competitiveness,
lower productivity and fewer prospects for sustainable
growth. Conversely, the rewards for businesses that
engage with this issue are huge. We need to see an
urgency applied by business leaders to help bring
greater momentum to ending stigma and improving
the capacity for positive mental wellbeing.’
I myself experienced this stigma in a number of places of work. The first place that clearly discriminated was a call centre I had worked in for 2 years, when I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. After being advised that shorter hours and more set shifts would help to stabilise my condition instead of the constant switch between doing early shifts and late ones. I asked my team leader if it was possible to put this in place, with a letter from my psychiatrist to back up what I was saying.
It was treated as almost a disciplinary procedure and made clear to me how inconvenient I was to them. This helped to destroy my self-esteem and with that and medication side effects to deal with, as well as the condition itself, I soon found myself absent from work, signed off sick. After months of this I eventually came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be well enough to come back. During this time I had had no support or encouragement from my workplace and I felt that my 2 years with them had been a complete waste after seeing the lack of respect that they had for me. Eventually I handed in my resignation and got used to a life of unemployment and ill health.
Years later, with no confidence and nothing to aim for, I decided to try again with employment. I was placed in a Future Jobs Fund position, working for a charity, as their volunteer coordinator. I had no previous experience in this role and was given no training and limited support. I informed my employer early on that I had Bipolar disorder and she said that she did not regret employing me, but that was not to last. My increasing workload and pressure from a couple of other colleagues to deliver results when I had no idea what I was doing led to me becoming ill again and thanks to a severe bout of depression I had to leave early from a job that I actually loved.
Years later I returned there and saw that they had actually employed one of the other women who did the Future Jobs Fund with me. (Future jobs fund was a temporary 6 month introduction into the workplace for the disabled or under 25’s and after that trial period it was up to the employer whether or not to keep you on). When I looked at how well she was doing, how settled, secure and happy she was, all I could think was: That could have been me!.
I know that jealousy is unbecoming and I know for a fact this girl had worked incredibly hard to be offered that position but it still broke my heart as I had found my dream job but was too ill to keep it.
What could have helped? Well, some things did already, like flexible working hours and an hour off for lunch. Getting out of the office and taking a walk to a nearby cafe gave me the space that I needed and helped me to feel more energised. It also gave me a chance to bond with my colleagues as a couple of them usually came with me.
What would have definitely helped would have been me speaking up sooner to say that my current workload was too demanding for me. That I needed help. That would have taken confidence that I didn’t have at the time but I will never make that mistake again.
I should have learned when to say no instead of taking on more and more when I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t be able to complete it. I just wanted to be seen as a productive and capable individual.
I should have been more aware of triggers to look out for to make me more aware when I was becoming depressed or manic.
I should have taken the time to explain properly to my employer what having Bipolar disorder meant for me and warning signs to look out for. All I could have hoped for would be that she would agree to support me with it.
Mental health awareness training for the workplace as a whole would have helped to answer people’s questions and probably led to them being more supportive instead of adding to the pressure.
Finally, I think some kind of counselling or awareness training to prepare me for being in a workplace with a mental health condition, would have made a difference.
Now all that I can hope for is that somewhere along the line, potential employers stop comparing me to Stacey from EastEnders and start to see me as the individual that I am. That they can look past the huge gaps in my employment and see the hard-working, passionate and determined individual that I am who just happens to live with a physical as well as mental health condition. All I can hope for is an end to stigma and for someone to give me a chance.
As I’ve mentioned before, my partner is currently in prison, serving an IPP sentence. This is a brief explanation of IPP and how it feels to be both a prisoner serving an IPP sentence and their loved one on the outside. I’m not writing this to complain or for pity it’s just to raise awareness that sentences without an end-date do exist and why I think they are so damaging.
‘In 2011 790 IPP sentences were issued for those aged 18 and over and the number of the prison population serving an IPP was 6078 (January to March 2012 figures)’ . More information about IPP sentences can be found here but basically they are used for ‘public protection’ where they think that there is a high risk of the prisoner reoffending. So what they decide to do is send them to prison without any idea when they will actually be getting out. http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/sentencing/indeterminate-prison-sentences.htm
The perfect punishment you might think, but isn’t prison supposed to be about rehabilitation? Haven’t you thought about how much it costs to keep these people in prison year after year? Also how can someone work towards rehabilitation effectively when they have no idea when they will be getting out of prison? In my view it is not punishment it is laziness from the justice system that ensures that repeat offenders receive no effective help inside prison to prevent them re-offending so instead the answer is to never let them out again.
I might sound over-dramatic but that’s what it feels like and looks like as the partner of an IPP prisoner. My partner is now over tariff (meaning he has gone past the recommended amount of time to serve) and is waiting for his second parole board case review which will take place later this year hopefully (if the prison do everything that they have been instructed to do). This includes waiting to have an assessment by a psychologist, something that we have been waiting for for months.
Then there are often delays with the parole board due to the huge number of cases that they are trying to get through and a lack of funding. Simon Rollason a Solicitor Advocate speaks out about this in an Inside Time article: http://www.insidetime.org/articleview.asp?a=1720&c=the_future_of_the_parole_board_and_ippa_downward_slope
There are huge queues for rehabilitative courses and not all courses are available at all prisons so there is a lot of moving around usually. My partner is one of the lucky few to have been able to remain in the same, ok prison, for the whole of his sentence. This should help with his parole reports as prison staff will be aware of him and know him better compared to if he was new to a prison.
The worst part of IPP is not having a certain future. Most prisoners know that if they are well behaved then their sentence will end on a certain date so they get their heads down and wait for that day to come. IPP prisoners and their families are left in limbo with no idea whether they will spend many more years in prison or be out in a matter of months. It leaves you feeling unsettled and often causes you to lose hope.
I made the decision to wait for my partner and I will continue to do so, however long it takes for him to be released. It is my choice and I hope that I will not be judged for it. After all, you can’t help who you love. Yes life would be simpler if I wasn’t involved in this relationship but it would also mean losing the person who makes the biggest difference to my life, for the better, even if they are behind bars.
Do you have a loved one serving an IPP sentence or have you served one yourself? Please get in touch, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this and may do a follow-up post if there is enough interest. I can be contacted on here, via Twitter @spursbythebeach and email email@example.com
Reported in today’s Guardian newspaper: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/27/labour-reverse-ban-prisoners-receiving-books Labour has said that it would reverse the ban on prisoners being able to have books sent in from relatives and friends. I recently posted about how disgusted I was by the ban:https://brokenglassshimmers.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/book-banning-in-a-decent-society/ and that I thought that it should be reversed so I am impressed that the Labour Party are standing up for this issue.
The Guardian reports how Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary said: “Putting obstacles in the way of prisoners being able to read books is ludicrous…Educational levels in prison are a national disgrace – 40% of those behind bars have the reading age of an 11 year old”. He also added that the Justice secretary should listen to the Chief Inspector of Prisons (who is also against the book ban) and “dump his ridiculous policy”.
This backs up completely what I was saying in my post. The government need to stop sticking their heads in the sand when people like the Chief Inspector of Prisons, who know what they are talking about, disagree with them. Instead they should take on board the comments of top authors and other people who are against the ban, and reverse it.
As far as I am concerned, reading is essential to a fulfilling life and promotes thinking and empathy, two things which should be encouraged for prisoners.
Each Wednesday and Friday on this blog I will be discussing an element of the STABILITY checklist. I was introduced to the checklist by a BEPCymru course and have a copy of it stuck to my fridge to remind me to be aware of it. Today I will be looking at sleep.
Last night was a great example of how bad my sleeping habits can be.I went to bed at a reasonable time, woke up at 3am and didn’t get back to sleep till about 7am. This is mainly because I broke the cardinal rules of sleep.
Firstly, I went to bed not long after a heavy meal. This probably meant that my digestive system was still active into the early hours (I ate late too) which probably woke me up in the first place.
Secondly I went to bed with things on my mind, without doing anything to address my feelings and thoughts.
Thirdly, I couldn’t get to a comfortable temperature, my body was either too hot or too cold.
Finally, I’m not well. My white blood cell count was low at the last check and around that time my quality of sleep deteriorated so that I need loads without feeling rested.
What helped me to eventually get back to sleep?
Two things helped. I wrote a letter to the person that I was upset with. I went into detail about how their actions had led to me feeling bad and told them why I thought that they were in the wrong. I don’t intend on sending this letter but the process of writing it helped a great deal.
Secondly. and what may be difficult to do depending on the time that you are attempting to sleep, I spoke to someone rational. My best friend lives in Sweden and is an hour ahead so she was awake during my final hour of sleeplessness. A few swapped messages (Whatsapp is a lifesaver) , some calm advice from someone able to think clearly and I could feel my whole body start to relax.
So, how to survive on minimal sleep?
Firstly, a long shower can work wonders, fresh air helps and resolving the issues that kept me awake last night,
I’ve tried to nap without any success, I must be overtired. I’ve promised myself a takeaway and hopefully a reasonably early night.
What is your sleep pattern like? What keeps you awake at night? How do you get back to sleep? And how do you survive after a lack of sleep?
Please feel free to comment, either on this blog, via Twitter @spursbythebeach, Instagram @spursbythebeach or my email address firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.