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Support for prisoners serving life sentences and their loved ones

Recognising the significance of remembering crime victims and the hardships they face is essential. It is also important to acknowledge the families and friends of individuals serving life and IPP sentences and the ongoing detrimental impact on their lives.

Currently, in the UK, a large proportion of the prison population are serving some form of life sentence, leaving thousands of families grappling with emotional and financial challenges. The prevalence of long and life sentences is on the rise, necessitating our remembrance of the innocent children and loved ones left behind.

A significant portion of our prison population are serving mandatory life sentences, which entail specific minimum tariffs individuals must complete entirely before qualifying for parole. Even after completing the sentence, there is no guarantee of release, as automatic release is not granted to any prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence. Consequently, some individuals may end up serving many additional years beyond their tariff.

With an increasing number of individuals being sentenced to longer terms, the prison population serving life sentences is rapidly growing. As a result, prisoners find themselves spending a significant portion of their lives in prison, ageing behind bars. However, the existing infrastructure and resources are inadequate for individuals serving extended periods in prison. There's a pressing need to address this shortfall and anticipate the resulting challenges, as these issues have repercussions that extend beyond prison walls and affect our communities.

We are the only official network in the UK solely dedicated to assisting life-sentenced prisoners or their families on the outside. Our aim is to establish an open community and support group that addresses the experiences of prisoners and families enduring their loved ones' sentences, while raising awareness of the effects of these sentences on prisoners, families, and friends.

Whether it is a relatively long sentence or any type of life sentence that is impacting you, we understand the harm these sentences can inflict, and our primary objective is to provide a lifeline and assure you that you are not alone.

Given the ongoing increase in life sentences and the escalating minimum tariffs, we urge the government to review sentence lengths, establish more comprehensive structures to address the needs of prisoners serving lengthy tariffs and support their constructive rehabilitation during their time in custody.

From the Long-Term High Security Estate until release and beyond, it is more crucial than ever to shed light on the challenges and difficulties prisoners and families continue to face behind prison walls, upon release, and in their reintegration into society.

Our network is fully aware of the need for sensitivity and assistance for individuals serving IPP and life sentences, and it lies at the heart of our mission. Through our platform, we aim to educate those who come into contact with our network about life and IPP sentences and their impact on others.

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Our campaign is committed to raising awareness about the far-reaching consequences of life and IPP sentences, shedding light on their hidden conditions, and advocating for the reform of these sentences.

Effective Sentencing, Reviewing Policies, Progression and Reform: Many countries have implemented limits on the duration of life sentences and require regular assessments for potential release after a specified number of years. The underlying principle is to allow for the rehabilitative effects of imprisonment and recognise the potential for personal transformation. However, in the UK, the length of life sentences has more than doubled in recent decades, with a substantial proportion of the prison population serving life sentences, and for many, these sentences are longer than they have been alive. Our campaign advocates for effective sentencing and the implementation of sentence reviews for life-sentenced prisoners who have demonstrated significant improvement. We emphasise the importance of providing rehabilitative resources to support prisoners and facilitate their progress. Instead of merely punishing prisoners more severely, we advocate for sentencing rules that facilitate rehabilitation and positive change. Moreover, we are dedicated to promoting the reform of life sentence conditions and influencing sentencing and progression policies that are currently depriving individuals of hope for rebuilding their lives during and after imprisonment.

Programmes Supporting Life Sentenced Prisoners: Currently, the UK prison system denies funding for higher education based on the stage of a prisoner's sentence. This policy has severe consequences for individuals who are limited in their opportunities to learn at certain stages of their sentence. We support the campaigns and organisations working to change this policy and urge the government to take action. In the absence of higher education services and courses, we aim to develop and promote tailored programmes and workshops specifically for life-sentenced prisoners. These initiatives play a crucial role in supporting individuals throughout their sentences, especially in the early stages and in the Long-Term High Security Estate. Life-sentenced prisoners, particularly those who may feel wrongfully convicted, face significant marginalisation within the prison community. They require a distinct approach that offers tailored support to help them navigate their sentences, rather than being solely evaluated based on perceived risk. We are eager to collaborate with organisations that can provide these types of programmes and resources. Additionally, we aim to enhance the skill set of prison officials to better support those serving life sentences, highlighting the benefits of providing comprehensive care and support, which can foster improved relationships, prison safety, and morale.

Maintaining Connection: Having digital skills is crucial for individuals re-entering society from the prison system. Research shows that access to technology is essential for prisoners, particularly those serving life sentences. It's imperative to advocate for technology access for such individuals, enabling them to stay updated on current affairs, maintain connections with the outside world, and engage with developments. By enabling communication with the outside world, we can prevent institutionalisation and mental stagnation, significantly improving prisoners mental well-being and reducing isolation. Denying prisoners access to digital tools only hampers their ability to function effectively in the modern world upon their release.

Coming Together: Our platform and forum aim to support and unite families and friends affected by the prison system, particularly life and IPP sentences. We are focused on establishing a membership community that transcends prison walls, where we can collectively drive positive change for those inside and outside of prison. Through sharing first-hand experiences and knowledge from those serving life sentences, we seek to raise awareness about the impact of life sentences and collectively work towards solutions.

Inside Information: Policies within prisons and the process of progression can be complex and difficult to navigate, even for those with experience and knowledge of the system. Policies frequently change, and information on practices can be unclear, causing distress, discouragement, and confusion among prisoners and their loved ones. Our platform provides guidance on the protocols of various processes, providing information on sentence plans, pre-tariff sifts, categorisation, parole, licence conditions, and recall.

Life after Life: For some prisoners, release can be the most challenging phase of their journey. Upon release, prisoners often find that their expectations of returning to normal life are unrealistic, especially after serving lengthy sentences. The world may have changed significantly during their imprisonment, leaving them unprepared. Life-sentenced prisoners face immense difficulty in preparing for release and readjusting to life outside due to ongoing economic and societal obstacles. Limited resources, inadequate support, and stringent licence conditions hinder successful reintegration into the community. Our campaign focuses on identifying specialised support that life-sentenced and IPP prisoners can receive towards and after release.

If we neglect to reform the practices concerning life sentences, the consequences will lead to less safe prisons and communities. It is of utmost importance to provide prisoners with hope and opportunities for redemption. Otherwise, upon release, they might be in their later years, lacking vital life skills and meaningful relationships that could showcase their transformation beyond the crime for which they were imprisoned.

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