It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it

Stephen Dailly
6 min readNov 16, 2019
Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash

I recently visited ‘M’, a serving prisoner, who has applied to join Walk when he is released early next year. He looks like a strong candidate.


A digression.

We’ll leave M. sitting in an interview room in the prison Resettlement Department for a little while. Please bear with me.

The Labour government of Tony Blair, in the first decade of this century, famously wanted to be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’. They introduced a nationally coordinated system of ‘evidence-based’ interventions in an attempt to address the reasons why offenders offend. The system was very far from perfect, but it was somewhat effective; they were trying to be ‘tough on the causes of crime’ in a systematic way that hadn’t been attempted before in the UK.

The ‘tough on crime’ bit showed up as a nasty thing called the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP), introduced in 2006. It was intended for prolific violent and sexual offenders, ‘to get them off the streets.’

So, a person with an offending past commits a violent offence and is sent to prison. But rather than being given a fixed-term sentence, they are given a minimum term or ‘tariff’ and a ‘life’ licence. Even after release, their sentence continues for the rest of their life.

Effectively, it was a life sentence.

There were (and still are) several particular problems.

First, especially in the early years, the offender rarely understood the sentence they had been given. They heard ‘two years’; they thought they would go in front of a parole board and be released after that time. This was almost never true.

Thus, the second problem.

In order to be eligible for release, IPP prisoners had to demonstrate that they were no longer a threat to the public. This was almost impossible to do, but it was where the ‘evidence-based’ interventions came in.

Those who demonstrated impulsive violence were put on anger management courses; prolific offenders were given cognitive skills interventions to address their poor decision-making; people with substance or alcohol dependency were treated for this, and sex offenders were put on…

Stephen Dailly

Writer. Christian. Worship Leader. Working with released prisoners.