The Prison Reform Trust yesterday said the “reckless” introduction of new indefinite sentences for violent or sexual offenders has pushed the prison system to breaking point.
In a briefing document, the penal campaign group said that interdeterminate sentences for public protection, introduced in 2003, were brought in with no debate or extra resources and have been given out to many of their 3,000 recipients for relatively minor offences.
The sentences are meant to be given out to a small number of dangerous offenders for certain violent or sexual offences. Like life sentences, prisoners are detained until they have proved they are no longer a threat to the public and are then released under licence.
The Prison Reform Trust claimed projections by the chairman of the Parole Board show over 12,000 people will be serving such jail terms by 2012 at current rates.
The trust said justice secretary Jack Straw had promised a review of the sentence. It called for guidance to check the growth in indeterminate sentences and an urgent review into the number of affected prisoners who had committed suicide.