IPP prisoners or life sentenced prisoners (indeterminate prisoners) do not have a date of release and can only be released by the Parole board. The Parole board will release them when they are satisfied that their risks can be adequately managed in the community. Indeterminate prisoners become eligible for release at the expiration of their tariff however certain prisoners falling into this category may have the opportunity to undergo a Pre Tariff Parole Review.
Pre Tariff Sift is essentially a sifting process of those prisoners who stand a good chance of getting open conditions from the Parole Board, before their tariff expiry. Getting open conditions for an indeterminate prisoner is a really important step on their path to release. It shows they can adhere to the custodial regime in a less secure setting and allows them to consolidate skills they have learned on offending behaviour courses. It also allows them to apply for Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL’s) which is considered an essential step in showing a parole board an indeterminate prisoner is suitable for release. In an attempt to manage the work load however, the sifting process ensures that only those prisoners with a realistic chance of being recommended for open conditions are put through the sifting process by the prison.
All prisoners serving a tariff of over 3 years should have their cases considered at a pre tariff sift with the exception of :
1. Category A status;
2. Offender Assessment System (OASys) appraisal of high/very high risk of harm;
3. Proven adjudication for serious violence within the last 12 months.
4. Prisoners with a history of absconding / attempted escape, failing to return from Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) or convicted of an offence whilst on ROTL during their existing sentence will not be eligible for a Pre-Tariff Review unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The Pre Tariff Sift takes place before the Pre Tariff review and the prisoner has to get through this process first. So what is the sift? It is basically a process undertaken by the prison to decide whether to recommend an inmate for a pre tariff review. The Pre Tariff review is the review which the parole board undertake to determine if a prisoner can move to open conditions. That is conducted by way of written representations initially and then a hearing if the board directs the case to a hearing. The board then makes a recommendation to the Secretary of State.
Prisoners often contact me asking if I can assist them with their Pre Tariff review but often when they contact me they haven’t yet made it through the sift. The two terms : sift and review are used interchangeably but they are different processes. The Pre Tariff sift takes place within the prison at a Sentence Planning and Review Meeting (SPRM). Inmates must be notified that a pre tariff sift will be considered at the SPRM and they must be given the opportunity to make representations. It is always advisable for an inmate to obtain legal representation at this stage if possible. Some practitioners take the view that legal aid is not available for the sift stage as it is a matter being considered by the prison and not the parole board however the 2017 standard crime contract specifies that :
12.109 The pre-tariff sift can be claimed under Advice and Assistance under this unit of work. For the avoidance of doubt, only work done in relation to the pre tariff sift is claimable and no other sentence planning work is covered.
It is important to understand that the point of a Sift meeting is not to consider whether an inmate should be transferred to open prison, but whether there is evidence in support of such a move, such that a panel of the Parole Board might reasonably reach that same conclusion. The recommendation is then made from the prison Governor and a caseworker from the Public Protection Casework section will make the decision on behalf of the Secretary of State.
Whether or not I can help an inmate at this stage depends on the timing of when they have contacted me. If the SPRM has already been written and sent to the Public Protection Casework Section to be considered by a caseworker then it may be too late for me to make representations at this stage and we have to wait for the decision to come back as to whether the inmate has made it through the sift. If they have, we are given a date that the full dossier will be distributed and we make representations as normal in writing asking for a hearing. An appeal against a decision not to refer the case to the parole board for pre tariff review can be made by the prisoner via the internal prison complaints procedure.
If however the SPRM has not yet been done then I can submit representations for the inmate at that early stage with the hope that it will positively assist in the recommendation that the prison make to the caseworker. In those circumstances I would email them to OMU at the prison before the meeting. It is not usual to submit representations following the SPRM recommendation but that is not to say that they won’t be looked at by the caseworker I have been told.
The outcome of the sift will be as listed below:
- The case is referred to the Parole Board for a Pre-Tariff review to consider a transfer to open prison or,
- The case is recommended for a further (previously known as exceptional) Pre-Tariff Review to consider a transfer to open prison or,
- Despite negative aspects, the case is recommended for a Pre-Tariff Review or,
- It is confirmed that the inmate is automatically excluded or,
- The case is not referred for a Pre-Tariff Review.
Following an inmate making it successfully through the sift, the Pre-Tariff Review follows the general Parole Board review process, which is currently referred to as the “Generic Parole Process.” It begins with a 26 week period to allow for the dossier reports to be compiled and the Parole Board to consider your case on the papers and whether an Oral Hearing should be convened.
Once the dossier is disclosed, it is possible for certain inmates to submit a Guittard Application. This is the consideration of a transfer to open prison in exceptional circumstances without a referral to the parole board avoiding the necessity of a hearing. If there is clear consensus within an inmate’s dossier for a transfer to open conditions, it is worth him/her submitting a Guittard Application. The OMU can assist the inmate with making the application directly to PPCS. The inmate will have to set out with evidence how they meet the criteria.
Legal aid has come back in scope to assist with pre tariff sift and pre tariff review but is not in scope for assistance with submitting a Guittard application. The 2017 Standard crime contract specifies:
12.110 For the avoidance of doubt this unit of work does not include Guittard cases involving indeterminate sentence prisoners applying to be moved to open conditions.
It is possible for me to assist on a private paying basis for the drafting of Guittard applications.