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Indeterminate Sentences

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

12. What steps his Department is taking in respect of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences who have completed their minimum tariff. (78963)

Tariff-expired indeterminate sentence prisoners will be released from custody only if the independent Parole Board is satisfied that they may be safely managed in the community. We are seeking to identify further improvements to the progression of those prisoners through effective sentence planning, which will require the engagement of the offenders themselves.

As I understand it, under the Lord Chancellor’s proposals a judge will be required to hand down a mandatory life sentence the second time someone is convicted of using a nuclear weapon. Allowing for all the Lord Chancellor’s wisdom and guile, would it not be an awful lot smarter to hold someone indefinitely the first time they committed that offence?

Certainly, the Government take a serious view of the use of a nuclear weapon; I hope that not too much of that breaks out in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. We discussed these proposals in the House only last week, and we achieved the House’s approval for them. There is an indeterminate sentence called a life sentence, which is the best and most established form of indeterminate sentence. Having got rid of the failed indeterminate sentences for public protection, we expect that quite a lot of people will get life sentences who hitherto would have been given the rather unsatisfactory IPPs.

Will the Secretary of State consider the problem of pre-release of prisoners where insufficient preparation is made for training or, particularly, for somewhere to live or some kind of community support? That means, in turn, that they either stay longer in prison or are released into the community, where they are inadequately supervised and end up back in a whole regime of crime.

We are looking at that problem very seriously, and we hope to produce a substantial improvement on the present situation. In particular, I am working with colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions to try to ensure that offenders leaving prison can have instant access to the work programmes that we are developing for other people seeking work. Enabling people to get back into employment is one of the best ways of improving the chances that they will not offend again.