This is an excerpt from Inside Times which I know a lot people reading this will not know what it is all about, it is a paper for all prisoners.
Frankie my son is a lifer with an 8 year tariffs and is soon to be starting his 23rd year with no signs of release.
Lifers – A Time For Change
Kenny Carter calls for a fairer system for lifers who have passed their tariff dates.
In the previous two issues of Inside Time (May & June) there have been articles regarding the release of life sentenced prisoners who are well over their tariff dates. Sir David Latham, the chairman of the Parole Board, has raised various concerns and called on his own members to start releasing more lifers as it is evident that many of those over tariff are actually no threat to society whatsoever. The reality being that the vast majority of those over their tariff dates could be safely managed within the community, which in effect would save the government millions of pounds. Very few people would dispute the fact that lifers released on life license have the lowest percentage of reconviction rates, in the region of 2%. The question must be asked as to why so many lifers over tariff continue to languish within this vastly overcrowded prison system? What purpose is this actually serving? Who is really benefitting from this and isn’t it logical to assume that the longer a person is left incarcerated the more chance there is of failure?
Sir David Latham openly blames his own members for not releasing more lifers simply due to the adverse publicity by the media regarding the reoffending of some high profile cases/individuals. Is it not the case that we have the right to have our cases reviewed at regular intervals by an independent/ impartial panel? Is it not the case that the panel should not be prejudiced/ biased, nor influenced by anything other than the facts of the case in front of them? So, by Sir David’s own admission, is it not the case that those well over their tariff dates could actually have a case to make under Article 6 of the European Rights Act? In my view there should be an overall shake up of the mandatory life sentence and the parole process and measures should be incorporated to create a fairer more ‘just’ system for all of us.
Firstly abolish the mandatory life sentence. Yet reserve such sentences for the worst possible cases where life should mean life. In effect, sentences should be passed to reflect the nature/ circumstances of that offence. A man goes out for a drink with his mates, when he returns home later he finds his wife or girlfriend has been unfaithful, they argue and, in a moment of complete madness he attacks her and she dies. If found guilty of murder he is automatically sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. A man goes out with the sole intention of murder in mind, abducts a child and subjects that child to an horrendous ordeal before killing her. If found guilty he will receive a mandatory life sentence but could be out before the man convicted of the domestic murder, which is absolutely ludicrous. In the first instance the judge could take into account the circumstances of the case and decide that it doesn’t merit a mandatory life sentence but does warrant a fixed term of say 10 – 15 years. In the latter case he could either pass a life means life sentence or alternatively a fixed term of say 40 – 50 years.
Secondly, abolish the present parole system and replace it with a tribunal hearing. If it is deemed that the lifer does not pose a threat to life and limb then the panel can have the power to release and that release should be immediate. Also, if release is denied then knockbacks should be a maximum of 12 months. Thirdly, moving a lifer to category D open conditions should rest with the prison he/she is being held at. Surely if they are authorised to recategorise to C and write parole reports to determine that lifers future, then I’m quite sure they must be qualified enough to judge whether or not that individual is suitable for open conditions. Finally, the criteria surrounding the license recall system should be abolished. It should be a simple case of no finding of guilt by a court for a further offence, then no recall permitted.
At a cost of millions there are lifers who are well over tariff in prisons up and down the country that shouldn’t be and don’t need to be. In reality 99.9% will never commit another crime, let alone take somebody’s life. It is clearly time for change now. Does it not say in the parole board’s own rules surrounding the release of life sentence prisoners – “The panel must focus on risk alone. If the panel is satisfied that the applicant will not go out and commit a similar offence to what they have been convicted of, then release should be directed.” It is evident to most that those who have served their tariff could be safely managed in the community. It is a complete waste of money and resources to keep them in prison any longer. It was not so long ago that David Cameron and Nick Clegg stood side by side and stated that it is now time for change. That it was their objective to create a safer, fairer Britain for every single one of us? Let us hope that those words extend to those lifers sitting in prison cells up and down the country that no longer need to be there. Maybe they could take a leaf out of Barack Obama’s book and ask the nation if they can do it, and the nation’s answer will be YES YOU CAN!
Kenny Carter is currently resident at HMP Hull