Usman Khan, sentencing and the rehabilitation of serious offenders | Letters

Peter Lock, a former probation officer, and psychotherapist Tricia Scott on jail conditions that can do more harm than good to prisoners

As a retired probation officer who was involved in the delivery of training programmes for the Criminal Justice Act 2003, I would suggest that the inadequacy of sentencing in Usman Khan’s case was rooted in the manner in which imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences were used following their introduction in 2005. They were intended for cases where the circumstances of an offence fell short of the threshold for a life term, but there was evidence of an ongoing serious risk to the public.

Unfortunately, IPPs were passed in numerous cases where they were inappropriate and were likely to do more harm than good. In particular, they were handed out to damaged young men who were not only in need of therapy and rehabilitation, but were ill-equipped to deal with the open-ended nature of the sentence. This was compounded by the fact that the prison system was unable to offer the structured path available to lifers so those on IPPs were often stuck in busy jails or bounced around the system due to their problematic behaviour.

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