There But for the Grace of God Go I.

I doubt that anyone on this planet could seriously defend the Tory government in the UK in terms of their record on mental health. Their proposals and policies for dealing with what is the largest health epidemic of our time have been best described as ‘bullshit‘. I could have written endlessly about this joke of a government in the intervening quiet time since my last post but one thing has recently captured my gaze: IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection).

There are around 3000 people in the UK serving IPP orders. They are intended to keep behind bars those who, in the absence of having committed a crime, may still be deemed to be so dangerous that their liberty ought to be deprived of them. Put simply, they are imprisoned without a release date yet they have committed no crime worthy of the sentence they are serving. Once such person is James Ward, a man who is currently serving the eleventh year of his 10 month prison sentence for arson. No doubt this will immensely please the ‘lock them up and chop their balls off’ merchants who want nothing more than to see the reinstatement of capital punishment, the return of the short, sharp shock, and grotesque mutilations for thieves and sex offenders such as amputations, castration and so forth. The efficacy of draconian state power is at the very best dubious, however what bothers me is the (mis)usage of these orders and how they are deployed against the mentally ill. Ward is currently self-harming and his parents believe that his suicide is simply a matter of time, so yet again this is another example of outrageous state power being wielded against the most vulnerable in our society. Are there really 3000 people in the UK who are so dangerous that they ought to be deprived of their liberty indefinitely? I doubt that very much. What I think is more likely is that these ‘throw away the key’ sentences are popular with voters, easy to use when dealing with difficult prisoners and politically expedient. After all there are no votes to be gained in campaigning on behalf of people like Ward, and that aside, who wants to be the person who releases someone who then goes on to kill someone when they could have given them an IPP? I mean, come on, is this not just the perfect tool for a politician to use in order to secure a platform upon which to spout off empty rhetoric about a zero tolerance approach to crime and punishment? The parole board obviously couldn’t care less, and a right wing government sympathies for criminals extends as far as their own interests.

If you think that you are not to worry about this then good for you. Personally I am scared to death of these orders. I am one serious mental breakdown away from being the subject of an IPP. We are 200 short years further on from the mentally ill being a tourist attraction in Bedlam. Do you think we could not possibly return to those awful times? I tell you now, we are closer than you might ever imagine, and the road from IPPs becoming routine down to rampant paranoia and indiscriminate imprisonment of those deemed to be so dangerous that society cannot be subjected to their presence is very much shorter than we think.

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