In 2003, an indeterminate sentence targeted at dangerous offenders – the IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) – was introduced by the Labour government’s Criminal Justice Act 2003. Over 8,000 IPP sentences were imposed in the seven years from its implementation in 2005. This contributed to a significant increase in the indeterminate prison population and saw England and Wales outstripping its European neighbours in this regard by a wide margin. The drive towards the preventive detention of ‘the dangerous’ across Western nations appeared to be unrelenting (McSherry and Keyzer, 2011; Ashworth and Zedner, 2014; M Brown, 2016).  This seminar draws on research findings from an ESRC-funded study of penal policymaking that utilized the IPP story as its case study (published as Dangerous Politics). I examine the dynamics that drove the abolition of the IPP sentence in 2012, and explore the campaigns, legal judgments, reform proposals and pragmatic accommodations that have made up the post-abolition landscape. These have centred upon the ‘prisoners left behind’, the thousands of IPP prisoners who remain incarcerated notwithstanding the abolition of the IPP as a sentencing option (a legislative move expressly justified on the basis of the irresolvable ethical and technical issues inherent in preventive sentencing). I consider why the Gordian knot of the prisoners left behind has proved to be so hard to unravel, and the broader lessons these developments may hold for the understanding of penal politics.

Please join us at 3:00pm for tea and biscuits for a 3:30pm start.