Support the show
In this Rebel Justice Podcast our host Trystan Kent speaks with Andrew Morris, former IPP inmate and vocal campaigner against injustices. Andrew sheds light onto the outrageous realities of IPP, and brings his experiences and insight into says we could reform the criminal justice system, within prisons and wider national reform. Andrew Morris is the co-founder of the Taking the Initiative party, a political party he started while still incarcerated.
IPP stands for Imprisonment for Public Protection - an indefinite sentence that prevents someone from leaving prison until a Parole Board deems them no longer a risk to society. This significant discretionary power has led to some appalling injustices, with thousands serving sentences far longer than their minimum tarriffs with no way of knowing when exactly they would be free again.
Despite being abolished in 2012, there remain thousands of prisoners with these sentences to this day, their lives shrouded in uncertainty.
Andrew was originally given a two year minimum sentence, but after a judge's decision to make this an IPP, this time was dragged out into 12 years behind bars.
During that time Andrew started a political party (Taking the Initiative Party), and since leaving prison he now works for the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, a prison reform consultant, and become a trustee for a prisoner human rights group (The Raphael Rowe Foundation).
Andrew is an important voice in the campaign against IPP sentences and for radical reform of prison more widely.
For more unmissable content from The View sign up here
Welcome to the View Magazine's Rebel Justice Podcast. I'm Trystan Kent. 2012 saw the abolition of a prison sentence that the then Justice Secretary Ken Clark called a stain on our justice system, a sentence known as the Imprisonment for Public Protection, or IPP. The basic idea was that certain prisoners on finishing their minimum sentence or tariff would not be allowed to leave prison until a parole board deemed them no longer a risk to society for anyone with an IPP. This turned what could have been only a relatively short sentence into a potential life sentence once this person was Andrew Morris, who saw his initial two year sentence get dragged out to over a decade behind bars. Since leaving prison, Andrew's achieved a great number of accomplishments from working in the prison and probation ombudsman's office, a prisoner reform consultant, trustee of a prisoner human rights group, and has even co-founded a political party. Andrew joins us today to discuss IPP its Impacts and the future of prison reform. We began by discussing his early experiences campaigning for justice as a teenager.
Andrew Morris (01:16):
So I had some experiences quite early on where I was exposed to what I felt was injustice with the police, and I remember friends of the family who were, arrested and in one situation, there was one who was unfortunately killed in custody. And as a result of that, I became quite indignant, actually decided that I was gonna start campaigning around deaths in custody and all that kind of thing.
Trystan Kent (01:47):
You started as a youth counsellor as well, Is that right?
Andrew Morris (01:49):
So originally I was working with a guy called Chris Butler. I don't wanna speak for him, but he is no longer here to speak for himself. He saw something in me and we started cobbling some stuff together. He supported me as a mentor to do that and originally set up the youth council. And I thought it was quite boring because <laugh>, we were meeting and just talking. We were talking about, you know, meeting to talk about meeting. So that morphed into what is now actually still going today as the Lambeth Tiger's Football Club, because we felt that trying to get young people engaged through sport was the way forward. And I'm really happy because when Chris and I started the Lambeth Tigers, we were writing applications for funding and things on a one finger at a time, kind of typewriter. But one of the young people who was a beneficiary of Lambeth Tigers as it was then now runs Lambeth Tigers. And I'm really ecstatic by the fact that, you know, they've got sponsorships, they've got funding, they've got staff, they've got hundreds of kids. You know, when we first started, I think we had like 50 or 60 kids on a regular basis coming and playing football. So quite early on you had a bit of a passion for campaigning or to get out there and change the world around you. Yeah, no, definitely. I think that some of those early experiences of seeing what I thought was, people being mistreated and maltreated, into, in terms of policing, gave me a real keen sense of duty.
Trystan Kent (03:21):
So, coming onto the IPP sentence, you got an initial tariff of two years minimum - a custodial sentence of two years handed down, and of course that ended up being a lot longer. So can you tell us a bit about how this was explained to you at the time? What it felt at the time to receive this sentence?
Andrew Morris (03:41):
Well, I remember being stood in the dock in December, 2007, and I remember hearing, lots and lots of legal jargon. And eventually the judge said, I have no other option but to ask an indeterminate, um, sentence. I'm just like, What? Be cause I know what indeterminate means, but I was just struggling to understand what it meant in that situation, what it meant at that time. And I heard him mention the words discretionary life, and I'm like, Who are you talking about? You're not talking about me. You can't be. And then my barrister, a lady called Christina, came up from London to represent me, and she started to explain that this was a new thing and that she didn't fully understand the ramifications, but she felt that it was manifestly excessive. And I remember those words manifestly excessive. And I just thought, what, what's happened?
Because originally what the judge said is, originally he was gonna give me four years, but, he'd half that and that would then become my indeterminate sentence. I remember almost feeling devoid of any emotion, because at the time I thought, This is some mistake. Surely this is a mistake, and it will be rectified in a minute. Now they'll say, No, actually we've got it wrong. You know, you're gonna do a couple of years and that'll be the end of it. But nobody gave me an explanation. In fact, it took me three years to get an explanation because I went off to prison and I started to think, have I got to do a minimum of four years on this IPP? I then found out it wasn't that, it was two. And I thought, Oh, well that's good. But then I realized that it was still indeterminate, so it didn't matter whether it was 1, 2, 3, or five.
As time went on, I started to realize that actually if I'd have had a bigger tariff, I would've had a better opportunity of getting through the system a lot quicker than I did. The other thing was that staff in the prison had no idea what it meant. They just knew that people were being locked up with the cell card had one of two things written on it, depending on what landing you were on, depending on what prison they either wrote on it, 99 years or the word life. I just started to think this doesn't make sense. This is, you know, I didn't actually - , you know, I made an offense, but I didn't physically injure anybody. Nobody's, you know, bleeding. Nobody's dead, nobody's, you know, there's none of that, that aspect of this, this offense.
Trystan Kent (05:59):
And just, I can imagine on top of the stress of the sentences itself and all these hurdles that we'll talk about a bit later, just the lack of clarity, I suppose, that is appalling.
Andrew Morris (06:08)
Yeah, it was, it was appalling. It was also frustrating because one of the things that unfortunately, and not all of them, but some prison staff were very good at, they were good at mocking people who were on IPP, but none of them had the ability to articulate what your sentence actually meant for you, what, how, how long it would take you to get through the system, what you needed to do to prove yourself. Because at the time, I had a course prescribed for me, and at the time, there were only four prisons in the country running this course. I was at the time being held in a prison that didn't run it. And I just thought, Well, I, why am I here? Let me, let me go, send me to where I need to go. And, and then I had issues with governors along the way, and, you know, I ended up in one particular jail. I'd never forget it. It was horrible. There were about 400 prisoners there. Only 23 of them at the time were people of colour. And there was a lot of, inequality and a lot of outright racism. Right. So I challenged them, as I, as I do <laugh> and I found myself quickly removed. I was put on a bus and removed to a jail in in Wilshire where I spent the next four years.
Trystan Kent (07:19):
That's awful. And if I understand correctly one of the big issues with IPPs is they place all of this importance on the individual to pass these courses to demonstrate at the next parole board meeting that they're able to pass a risk assessment, but that they can't actually access the courses or any of the means to do what they've been asked to do. I've heard there are also waiting lists that are longer than the tariffs. Completely ridiculous scenarios. Is that right?
Andrew Morris (07:49):
It's absolutely spot on. I met one guy who was a really nice guy actually. But I met this one guy and he really started to put into perspective what IPP meant for me because he explained that his tariff was 12 months and the course he needed to do had a waiting list, minimum waiting list of five years. And I just thought, so that means, you know, with the time that you've gotta wait, you've gotta get onto it. And once you get onto it, you have to have a post course review. And then eventually after you've served the tariff , the general rule of thumb, although it's not strictly, you know, always the case, is that if you do more than sort of five, six years in prison, on a long term sentence, you're gonna have to go to prison. Um, so, you know, in my head I'm calculating, I'm thinking, so this guy's gonna do at least eight or nine years before he moves on.
I found out for me that, um, the waiting, this was quite long. I can't remember what it was at the time, but unfortunately for me, and, and it was unfortunate, although they kept messing about, I was sat in this jail waiting and I saw people coming and going, after me parachuting in doing the course, and then getting transferred back to the prisons where they've come from. My MP at the time, we were friendly. I wouldn't say we were friends, but we were friendly cause I, I'd met him and he's no longer the MP, but he decided to come and visit me while he was still a sitting MP. He then went and spoke to the governor. And then very shortly after, after that, he made representations to the Secretary of State at the time to say, "Look what's going on?"
And the Secretary of State wrote that, if I wasn't on the next course, I would most certainly be on the one after that. So that was a guarantee in my mind, a written guarantee that if I don't get on the next one, I'm gonna be on the one after that. And lo and behold, I was on that one afterward. But then I, you know, there were other things that happened that I didn't understand because while I was on the course, I became the first, at this particular prison, the first person to be asked to be a mentor, to other people doing the course. And then they only recommended that I go to open conditions where other people who I mentored on the course were recommended for release. And I never did understand that because it just infuriated me. Cause I'm just thinking, well, hang on a minute. You've asked me, there's nobody else who's been a mentor, so you've obviously spotted something in me to ask me to do that. And for some reason, you know, your staff team are not unified in their recommendations because some people have been transferred, and don't get me wrong, I mean, I never felt bitter towards the individuals. I just felt bit system, you know, system really does seem to mess with people's lives.
Trystan Kent (10:20):
When you say the system, when, was it just that whoever was passing on these things to you or asking you to be a mentor or making these decisions, that there just wasn't any communication? Or was there just no transparency between departments? What was going on there? Or do you still not know?
Andrew Morris (10:34):
I, you know, I still don't know. Wow. I still don't know. And I've, so I've distanced myself from it as much as I can. Cause at this point I'm just like, Well, you know what, I've, I've moved on. But I think that there was just a, a lack of communication. Somebody somewhere, there was a guy who was the head, um, psychologist signing off on everything that staff did, but he went off long term sick because, you know he couldn't cope. A lot of stuff going on, somebody else stepped into his shoes. It was, it was a mess. I just felt at a point that I didn't care where I lived or died at that moment. I really I felt like I had to do what I needed to do, and I was going to do it regardless of what I was told. Don't get me wrong, there was fear at times because, you know, obviously there are more of them than there are of me.
I don't want to get into the kind of them and us culture because the reality is, you know, all I had was me and I just felt that what, what was happening was wrong. And, um, guess what, Some people seem to agree because the Justice Select Committee has just released a report, 10 years after the repeal of IPP essentially saying exactly that, that it's wrong. And see, this is one of the difficulties I have with the criminal justice system, is that not only does it make it hard to do the right thing, but when it's realized that a mistake has been made, it's really incredibly slow to correct itself because, you know, people, politicians effectively are not willing, let's put it bluntly, if there's, if it's not a vote winner, it's not a priority.
Trystan Kent (12:14):
Andrew Morris (12:15):
And I just think that's sad because for me, there are 10.9 billion reasons why some of this stuff is important. And that's because that is the figure that it costs our economy in reoffending each year. I just think that if you are genuinely want to reduce re-offending, then you'll do the things that are so obvious to be done. And one of those things really is reversing the, the, you know, the scourge, the horrific nature of IPP
Trystan Kent (12:48):
Yeah, absolutely. What is this sort of the psychological impact of an IPP on someone who's been given a sentence like that, and also how does that affect their outlook going forward, their outlook for the future? Cuz that's going to have some bearing on sort of how they're going to approach their parole meetings and so on.
Andrew Morris (13:07):
Yeah. Do you know what, it'd be one unfair of me to name him, so I won't name him, but there was one chap who felt that, um, he was never getting out of prison, and as a result, he never did, because he took his life, in 2010. And he didn't do it easily, but I remember thinking, I never thought for a second that he would take his life, but I did know that something was wrong. And I did something at that time that I haven't done before since - I went to the authorities to say, "Look, you really need to keep an eye on this guy. "And they ignored me. And I think it was less than two weeks after that initial, , suggestion from me that, you know, you need to keep an eye on him. He was dead.
just find that unforgivable, but then the other thing is, is that in custody, but also out of custody, you feel like you're walking on eggshells. While I was in custody, I remember, I hinted earlier on about, you know, staff that would mock you. One of the things that some staff, not all of them, not all of them, but a lot of staff were very good at, is knowing that you had to toe the line. So you couldn't - most people wouldn't want to be seen to be difficult. You didn't want complain, even if you'd been wronged. Um, you, you know, you didn't want to, um, put in written complaints. You didn't wanna write to your MP. I mean, I did that stuff all day every day. I really didn't care. But a lot of people wouldn't do it.
I felt like I was treading on eggshells. I was no different to anybody else. I think the only thing is, at that point, I reached this point where I just felt like this is wrong and I can't be complicit in my own demise. Effectively. I can't, even post-release. I speak to people on a regular basis even now, and I know what they're saying and I know what they're feeling because I still feel it. I feel like I'm on eggshells because it's that sense of just suspicion that you're doing something that you shouldn't be doing could lead to recall to custody. And I just think that's outrageous because one of the things that the legal system is built on is certainty. So there should be some certainty around how you live your life. How, as long as you're not committing an offense, suspicion should not be enough. But unfortunately, even open prisons operate on the same basis. If somebody in prison, another prisoner doesn't like you, for whatever reason, you know, that's their stuff. But if they put your name in the box, you'll be moved to closed conditions while that's investigated and it'll take you six months to a year to return to open conditions. And that is just, it's not on, it's not on. Can you imagine if we applied those same systems to parliament there'd be no MPs, <laugh>, <laugh>, there'd be no MPs.
Trystan Kent (15:47):
I'm just trying to think of anywhere where you want, you know, a positive outcome. But that's the atmosphere. You, you're not going to get that if you're sort of bringing atmosphere of suspicion everywhere or anywhere I've worked before, just to imagine why you'd think that that would bring out a good outcome.
Andrew Morris (16:04):
<laugh>, I, I mean, I don't know who comes up with this stuff, but somebody's somewhere writing some of this policy, and I think whoever it is, they're an idiot. I think that, you know, it needs to change. At the moment, one of the mantras that's out everywhere is about lived experience. And I would take it more seriously if it was really truly embraced by people all across, you know, government in the civil service, in politics and all that kind of stuff. But the reality is, there are people in positions that tap into lived experience when it suits them, when it means that they don't have to pay for that information to try and do what it is they do that they're getting paid to do. But that's basically soliciting information from people by their lived experience.
And I just think that it's really out of order. I think that it's a shame that we are not learning. I mean, so I've been really privileged that, I very early when I came out of custody, I had conversations with people like Raphael Roe, who has presented The World's Toughest Prisons and a set up foundation, which I'm a trustee of. And he's very keen because I mean, the difference between us, we both served 12 years in prison differences is, as I said to him is that I was guilty. He wasn't, , he just wants to see decent prisons and he goes to prisons. And I, you know, I recoil in my seat when I watched some of the prisons that he into, because they greet prisoners with a handshake. Now, don't get me wrong, a handshake's not going to, you know, put me to, to sleep nicely at night.
How I'm treated by the system and how I end up emerging from that system is what I'm focused on. But, you know, you look at Finland and Norway and all these other European countries where their prison population is quite low because of the way they treat their prisoners. And it seems to me that, you know, some people in those family, I don't know, I've never been to Norway or Finland, but in some of these jurisdictions, criminality is only on the basis of necessity. I think unfortunately in this country, somebody somewhere thinks it's necessary to lock up, you know, double the amount of people that we locked up since the 1990s, I think under Michael Howard of someone like 40,000 people in prison now it's kind of teetering, uh, around the 90,000 plus mark. You just wonder why, you know, I mean, there are so many things that we could do differently, whether or not they'll be achieved in, in my lifetime.
I dunno if you're not speculative at best, but lived experience, voices will be heard and that we can improve. I mean, it sounds very airy fairy. It's almost like, you know, one of these kind of competitions where they say,
"What do you wanna see?"
And somebody says, "Well, peace."
"That's not what I'm offering".
I mean, yes, piece would be wonderful, but I'm just kind of in this space of let's just create a sensible, decent system that actually brings people who may have been in a difficult bind to a place of not wanting to reoffend because actually the quality of their life is not so bad outside of prison. And having had an experience of prison, it, it's still a deterrent, but it doesn't have to be to be Dickensian - prison is the, the punishment. You don't have to then strip people their entire dignity in order to try and get 'em to rehabilitate, because actually it doesn't work that way. In fact, it makes some people, it makes very bitter people even more bitter.
Trystan Kent (19:32):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. I was, I was sort of going to ask about your thoughts about sort of prison as a space of quote unquote rehabilitation and there any other sort of key issues or key barriers within prisons that you think prevent that?
Andrew Morris (19:44):
Yes. Um, again, to, it comes down to staff. I think,, I, when I say staff, I'm talking about senior leadership as well as, you know, the, the rank and file, probably more the senior leadership, because I remember having a conversation with the governor once, and this governor when I spoke to him about release on temporary license or ROTL it was called. There were two avenues that we had this conversation. One, I just said to him, Look, I need to speak to him about my home leave. And I was very keen to get a home leave with my mom and what have you. He said, "Why are you talking to me?"
And I said, Because your names on, your name gets signed on all these documents. So I've come to, you know, I've come to the head honcho and he kind of mulled on it a little while.
He's no longer a prison governor, He's moved on to do other things. But it was just that attitude of, why are you talking to me? And I just thought, oh. But then I spoke to one of these subordinates, another governor, but a slightly junior governor. And one of the things he said was, "My mortgage depends on me wielding my pen to sign off somebody's ROTL."
And I just thought the trouble with that is, is that you can be choosy. You could be an undercover racist for all anybody knows and decide, "Well, I'm going to sign this one, but I'm not going to sign that one."
It's not the job for you if you are not willing to say, right. Okay, I'm going to, Because the thing is, if you sign off a ROTL you are signing on the basis that somebody coming to an open prison and has been deemed safe to be there.
Andrew Morris (21:04):
So actually, your, mortgage doesn't depend on it. The mortgage of your boss depends on it because he's the one that is responsible for everything that comes through through prison. I mean, me personally, and I know there's people that would probably really dislike me for saying this, but me personally, if I had the ability to, I'd do away with open prison, I would do away with it because I think that it's harmful. I think that there are people there who are not doing a good job, that are holding people back from achieving really positive outcomes by building social capital that they can come out to the community with driving licenses, education, jobs, accommodation relationships, all that sort of stuff, I think is impeded by open prison. Because I think open prison is not a healthy environment at the moment. Here's the reality. There are jails up and down this country that are unsafe for both prisoners and staff. Open prisons are not unsafe and you won't see very many incidences, but they are holding staff who could be in those, B cat and A cat prisons making them safer places.
Trystan Kent (22:15):
Right. Interesting. It's interesting that you had that reflection on open prisons. Cause I think I listened to an interview once where before going to an open prison, of assumed it would be land of, uh, milk and only, I think you called it. Yes. Is that right, <laugh>?
Trystan Kent (22:31):
So not quite
Andrew Morris (22:32):
Well. No, it's not. And I suppose that's just my experience. I mean, when I first heard about opening prison, somebody, somebody said to me, they said, Are you going to D Cat? And I said," What, what's D Cat?"
And when he explained to me what a Decca was, I was like, That really, There's such a thing. I, and I was, I was excited. And that's where the whole land of milk and honey thing came. But when I got to open prison, I was quickly disabused of the idea that I was going to achieve very much. I didn't achieve anything in open prison apart from a certificate of higher education in, in law, and even that was hard one because when I initially started to go down this route of readings from law, I applied in one prison, then it took me nine months to get permission to, to do it and then eventually they said, "Oh, we're going to move you."
And by the time when they moved me, that permission then disappeared with the move because I had to reapply at the new prison. See what I mean? So yeah, I, I got so frustrated. I just thought to myself, You know what? This is not worth it.
Trystan Kent (23:31):
It. Yes. It's just shocking when you sort of think about it, isn't it? You mentioned, I hinted that earlier that prison reform wasn't really much of a vote winner. What are the main barriers, do you think, to prison reform in this country? Is it public perception or do you think...
Andrew Morris (23:45):
I think it is public perception, but I think it's more, well, actually no, it's a combination of the two, is public perception. Because I think at any one time, like I think the figure is something like 0.00001% of the population is in prison at any one time. So the the reality is most people don't know and don't care what goes on. But there's also this assumption from people that everybody in prison is a, you know, a murder or a rapist. And that couldn't be further from the truth. But that's the picture, unfortunately, that politicians and media and and whoever else cares to get involved in that space, tries to paint. And I think it's unfortunate because actually I've met some wonderful people in prison. I've met some really decent people who unfortunately just fallen into, well, they've fallen through the cracks, and re-offending, unfortunately, was an option, or the only option. There's, there's just, there's a massive, there's too much in the hands of politicians when it comes to the criminal justice system.
Trystan Kent (24:53):
IPPs were created under new Labour's Criminal Justice Act, a wide ranging raft of legislation, and part of their aim to get tough on crime Labour's then home secretary was David Blunkett. Now, Lord Blunkett and the man most responsible for IPPs, he thought that these sentences severe as they were, would be used in the most extreme circumstances, only a few hundred at most in reality, IPP became widespread from the moment they were introduced in 2005 with several thousand inmates being detained indefinitely in such a manner. So, so Ken Clark, the man who abolished these sentences in 2012, um, I think since said that it was absurd that people were still serving IPPs to this day, you know, after he'd abolished them. I wanted to know some of your thoughts about that and, and maybe why he couldn't have done more when he was in power.
Andrew Morris (25:46):
Wow. Yeah, that's a really, that's a big question. I think that he, and so this is the problem is it's going to be speculation, but I think that he was, um, he had his wings clipped because the thing is, at the time, I remember him saying that he wanted to kind of deal with the IPP situation. I remember speaking with an MP in prison who got elected through the Conservative government. So she became a conservative MP, became a member of the government as a junior minister, and promised that there was going to be an overhaul and a, you know, root and branch reform and a review of IPP. Then all of a sudden, um, you know, she was removed from, from this position. I think sadly, I mean, <laugh> yeah, I mean, we can speculate. The only person that can remove somebody from their position like that is going to be the Prime Minister.
Andrew Morris (26:39):
I suspect that, again, it comes back to the whole not being a vote winner type stuff. I think one of the scandals of IPP has been the turnover of the amount of justice secretaries that have come in and gone out in the lifetime of IPP because no one has truly got to grips with it. No one is truly committed to changing it. Some of us who were serving IPP you know, when we put the world to rights, you know, in ourselves at night-time, we had conversations about whether, you know, if it was decided that we couldn't have any compensation, and by the way, I haven't had any, but if we couldn't have any conversation, but we have our sentences commuted to determinate sentences to allow, um, you know, for any potential claims, would, you know, would we go for it?
Andrew Morris (27:32):
And everybody, uh, you know, as a resounding yes, yes, you'd go for it. You know, so in other words, if you'd serve 10 years, you could just have your sentence changed to a 20 year standard sentence and be off, you know, be off with you. But, for some reason, I don't know, there just seems to be a real reluctance, and I don't understand it. People are unfortunately taking their lives in custody. People are becoming very mentally unstable and unwell. People are turning into substances and you know, abuse of substances in custody that they're all too reliant on. And so I just, I just wonder, it just feels so there seems to be a want and disregard for life. Yeah, and that's such a shame because one of the things, I met a guy actually in one of the prisons I was in, and I loved what he said to me.
He was from, DRC the Democratic Republic of Congo. And he said to me, "The best way that you can judge a country is by the way it treats its prisoners."
And I thought that is a fantastic, you know, way to frame things, to look at things, because when you look at all the regimes around the world, and Rafa Row helps us to do that quite well with the Netflix series and all of his predecessors before him, you know, the UK doesn't have a very good record of treating its prisons very well. I don't think, I mean, don't get me wrong, there's going to be lots of other examples. I don't suppose Guantanamo Bay comes into the equation, but it's not officially a prison as such. But I just think it's, it's horrific really, if we are talking about helping people to get on with their lives, We're talking about reducing reoffending, reducing the cost of reoffending, reducing the, the, the carnage and the wreckage of, you know, people's past that leads them to reoffending, then it makes real sense to begin with freeing up some space. You know, there's at least 2000 people still serving IPP at the moment, as well as, and let's not forget, let's not forget the, um, two strike lifers whose legislation doesn't even exist anymore. Just much like the IPP, you know, some of these guys are 20 years over tariff.
Trystan Kent (29:41):
Another famous campaigner against IPP sentences is of course, David Blunkett, who I understand you've met, Is that right?
Andrew Morris (29:50):
I didn't meet, I had a conversation with him like we are having now. So I had a Zoom conversation because we couldn't meet in person, because at that time there were still lots of Covid regulations and it just wasn't
Practical. I was, wondering what it would've been like to chat to a man whose policies have had quite an impact on your life. And I wondered as well, seeing as he's now campaigning so much against IPP, why wasn't this foreseen at the time, do you know?
Andrew Morris (30:17):
We didn't really get into the nuts and bolts all of that. He did express deep regret, and I know that he's on record previously to speaking to me, expressing that regret. But I think what it was is that, because what he did say is that he thought it was going to be for literally a few hundred people, no more than about a thousand people, I think, was what he said. And then ultimately he ends up being kind of 10, 11, 12,000, something like that. So, 11 times more than was anticipated. But I think there were a couple of things, and this is just me reading between the lines, and that is that he didn't anticipate that the judges would be as frivolous as they were in handing them out. Because the other thing is that there were huge bottlenecks because nobody started to think, Well, the machinations of this is that people have to prove themselves to the parole board.
I don't think anybody thought beyond that. I remember this judge saying to me, actually, that the parole board would decide, but I don't think he really read very much into the fact that, I'd have to go through like everybody else this process of trying to get a place on a program that was like gold dust. And so, I mean, it, it's sad and it, it is difficult. I'm glad I was able to speak to David Blunkett with, you know, decorum and respect because I was very angry, before I spoke to him. And I wanted to really challenge and confront him. But in the end, we had a decent conversation. I was quite appreciative that he was willing to talk but actually I had to nudge him into speaking to me, because originally I wrote to him, and he was reluctant to begin with. He said he was speaking to lots and lots of people, and I had to, sadly tell him unfortunately black voices, people of colour in this situation are not being heard and based on that, he I think, felt guilty and decided to speak to me, Um, yeah, manipulated on my part, but it's a shame that you have to go there in order to get people to, you know, to talk to you, especially after the, you know, the impact that they've had on your life.
Trystan Kent (32:30):
Yeah. IPP as well as lots of the criminal justice system does disproportionately affect people of colour, right. So, yeah, it's, it's important that someone like David Bunker does confront that, so
Andrew Morris (32:40):
Absolutely. He, he told me that, you know, one of his colleagues, David Lammy was going to be kind of taking up the mantle. I don't know if that's still the case, because at the time David Lammy was the Shadow Justice secretary. I don't know if that is still in that the position, I haven't had a chance to have a conversation with David Lammy as yet. Mm. I have met him very, very, very, very briefly. , But yeah, I'm planning to be in contact at some point soon when I've got a bit more, time to, you know, to kind of, um, go at him with
Trystan Kent (33:18):
<laugh>. Oh, well, we're going to be coming on to some of the sort of many things that you, you seem to be doing an awful lot at the minute, so we'll get a bit chance to talk about that, including one of the things I think you've said is that you want to be the first former inmate to run a prison yourself. Is that correct?
Andrew Morris (33:34):
I'll be honest with you, I'd love to do that, but I had an experience recently that tells me that it may not happen. I'm in the civil service at the moment. I do a role in the civil service, and I applied for a promotion. I was offered the job, uh, and then it was subsequently withdrawn. I'm going to go back to the drawing board on that because if that opportunity been taken away, I I suspect that, you know, there'll be a reluctance to allow anything seeming like an ex-offender governing the prison. But the reality is, is that, you know, not just me, I know that there's, there's lots of people. I mean, people like Gwethin Jones, again, somebody I've never met, but I know lots about people like David Breakspear, all these kinds of people I know would be amazing prison governors.
Andrew Morris (34:19):
Because they have the same lived experience as me, and they have ideas that would not only reduce re-offending, but would create a kind of an environment that people wouldn't necessarily want to come back to, but people would be very respectful of. I think one of the things is that the more antagonistic a system is to somebody, it's like, I think it was Lord Woolfe that said it. You know, if you treat people like animals, then don't be surprised if you get bitten. It's that kind of sense of doing things. And, you know, I'm not saying I have all the answers because I don't, I think that would be foolish and naïve, but I have some of the answers. And unfortunately, you know, the people that are in positions of authority that are in position to affect change, either, you know, don't know it or just don't care, you know, they don't think of the answers, which tells me that this is you know, rather than the system of default, it's a system of design.
Trystan Kent (35:11):
I mean, if you were to become a, a prison governor, what are some of the reforms that you might like to see change?
Andrew Morris (35:18):
I think, see, we, we started to go down this route, and I think it was if I remember right, I think it might have been Ken Clark who started it, but he was giving governors more autonomy. So we had these - you remember when we had these super head teachers in schools, it was almost that same kind of of premise that you have an autonomous governor who controlled and managed what they did in their prison, but it never really took off. And I think that that needs to happen, but carefully, because I want, you know, you were at risk of having dictators, you know, effective dictators in small and small, um, environments. But if I had the ability, one of the things I would want to do is get rid of prison service instructions because I think that they, they're quite long, they're laborious. all they tend to do is they allow, governors and the system to continue to keep on masses of, you know, control measures on people who are already subjugated by their very imprisonment. I think I'd get rid of those. I think that one of the things I'd want to do if I had control over prison is I'd say, "Look, this is what I'm doing here, if you want to come to this prison and do things slightly differently, you apply to do that, but you apply to do so on this basis and that basis would be that one PSI doesn't exist here, we're going to respect one another. We're going to respect the reasons that you are here, but we're going to work to ensure that when you leave here, you are better off than when you came here."
Andrew Morris (36:51):
You know, that, that would be me, that would be effectively me. But if I had the, the control of the whole system, as I say, you know, one of the things I would definitely do is get rid of open prison. I get rid of it. But, but the other thing is that it's not always practical, but I'd want to try and get the prison population down to 1990 levels. I don't see why it's so big. You have to balance it because you can't send the message that actually you can commit offenses and you won't go to prison just because it's this offense or that offense. That is a nonsense. I think prison has to be a deterrent, but people have to be in a position to leave better than when they went in. Cause if they're not going to leave better than when they went in, then they're just going to keep going on that, that cycle of recidivism and not really care. Mm.
Trystan Kent (37:36):
And one of the things that's interesting, so you're a trustee with the Raphael Rowe Foundation. I thought was interesting. There's, there's an emphasis on reform outside of prison wars as well as within. And I wondered if, did you have any of thoughts on that work? What could be done outside of prisons themselves?
Andrew Morris (37:52):
Yeah, you know I think it starts with, because one of the things that Prison Reform Trust did very well, was they have written a number of reports and identified in the main that there are three ingredients to help people to stop re-offending - good relationships, accommodation and gainful employment. Cause the thing is, one of the reasons that here we have some, there's not many, but there, the idea was there going to be a thousand people in the civil service with lived experience of the criminal justice system by the end of 2023? That was the plan. Whether it's still, um, going to plan, I don't know. But the idea behind that was that somebody decided somewhere, and I wrote a letter about this, this some years ago. So it was nice to see that it actually came to fruition - is that if the government is asking employers to take people on, then the government itself needs to lead by example and do exactly the same thing.
Andrew Morris (38:47):
It's great that they're doing that. Yes. A lot of the positions are quite sort of entry level type things, uh, and it's difficult to see whether or not there is a career progression. Um, <laugh>, I'm, you know, I'm case in point, but I think that's where we, we need to be, We need to be in that place of really, uh, opening things up. Okay. One of the things I'm saying to people, when I tried to, I can't remember who it was, but I spoke to them, is no one is in the right mind going to advocate, just for example, that, you know, uh, a sex offender should go and work in a school. That's nonsense. Nobody's saying that. However, there are, I think opportunities for people who may have committed some violent crimes, Not necessarily serious ones, but, uh, who have truly shown that, you know, they can be different, that they can, um, be pro-social, um, in the community.
Andrew Morris (39:43):
Um, to be given an opportunity to, to, you know, do stuff and to impart some wisdom and knowledge on, on young people to, you know, repeating the same mistakes. One of the things I don't do, I wouldn't say to a young person, for example, don't smoke weed. I would just share the experience that I smoked it, and this is why I don't smoke it anymore because I've been down that road. It wasn't for me, but it would be foolish of me to say, Well, you shouldn't do this. Because the thing is, I did it. So how can I tell somebody not to do it? All I can say is, Look, I did it. This is what it did for me. And that experience is something that I don't want to repeat. And I think that's where we need to be. It can't, we can't keep having this top down kind of do, as I say, not as I do attitude with, with anybody, never mind young people because they won't have it. You know, there's a generation coming now that is having no nonsense from, from anybody. I think we saw some of that during the London riots. But anyway, that's another <laugh>. That's another matter. We saw it during the, the lockdown as well. You know, people will come in together and saying, Look enough with this.
Trystan Kent (40:57):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. So you're got quite a few different hats at the minute. Wondered if you wanted to chat a little bit about some of the different projects that you're involved in and of the work that you're doing these days? You want to sort of talk about Yeah. Some of the stuff that you're up to.
Andrew Morris (41:11):
I'm trying, you know, I'm trying to slow down at the moment, <laugh>. Um, but, uh, as you know, I mean, obviously part of Raphael Rowe Foundation, I'm a trustee of something called the Charles Golden Trust, which is very specific to Croydon and Lewisham, part of London doing some stuff with young people and housing and that kind of thing. But I'm not as involved in that as I once was. I co-founded a political party, while I was still in prison which is now is doing exceptionally well. Again, I'm not very hands on with it at the moment. I'm not as involved with it as I once was. Cause one of the things about politics is it can be very toxic and so I've dressed back a little bit just to kind of get my bearings, to see where I want to go, because although I've been part of setting up a political party, I don't know that it's going in the direction that, that I want to go in as an individual. So instead I've kind of fallen back to be more involved in campaigning around stuff like IPP. So in that sense, I am, you know, what I am doing is campaigning around IPP at the moment. I am studying, I'm working and that's kind of about it really. I've really slowed down. I mean, one of the things I do
Trystan Kent (42:36):
<laugh>, Oh, that's all <laugh>.
Andrew Morris (42:38):
One of the things I do enjoy doing, but I just don't have enough time at the moment, is when I co-founded the political party. We had some election stuff going on earlier this year, and I was invited to a radio station called Love the Beat Radio based in Southeast London, and there's a program on there called Sound Mind, Sound Mind Show, and they invited somebody without Sound Mind, and, and I stayed but, so they invited me up. I spoke about Taking Initiative Party, which is the organization I founded. They just asked me if I'd stay. So I was appearing on this show, you know, every Wednesday evening or what, whatever, Yes. Every Wednesday evening but again, I've had to slow down on that, but they're fantastic. So there's a group of four of us if you include me and we just talk about topics from the week for a couple of hours, bit of music, and, and that's it. You know, jobs are good and, but again it's a lot of time and energy and
Trystan Kent (43:38):
<laugh> all these different projects going on. I don't know if this is even silly to us, but I was goanna ask you finally, what is next for you?
Andrew Morris (43:47):
<laugh>? So now I'm aiming to set up an organization - it's kind of in the, you know, it's in the background. It's happening slowly. And that organization is going to be very focused around campaign issues, particularly around criminal justice, housing education. But the other thing is, is that, so this organization, I've got a few, couple of my friends - colleagues and friends who want to be involved in some capacity, and two of them are going to be trustees along with myself and one of the things I was concerned about is that when I came outta prison, I had three particular labels. Uh, one is that I'm an ex veteran, or, or I'm a veteran, you know, I, I was an ex reservist with the TA as it was was then, but now the Army Reserve. I'm an um, addict, alcoholic but in recovery, you know, I've been in recovery for 16 years now. And the other thing was that I was an ex-offender coming out and there was no one organization that was able to help me with anything. The Royal British Legion and, and some of the military charities were fantastic. Outside of that, there was no organization to kind of help me to go here, there or wherever. I had to literally sit in front of a laptop, find some Wi-Fi, and find what I needed so, uh, I want to set up this organization called New Wave, and New Wave is going to kind of campaign around some issues that try and, well, no, not try - we're going to have some uncomfortable conversations and we're going to try and bring some people along with us to have those uncomfortable, uncomfortable conversations. Um, so yeah, that's probably the next thing. And to carry on with my studies, to finish off the law degree that I started all those years ago and didn't manage to finish in, in Open Prison.
Trystan Kent (45:34):
Amazing. Well, Andrew Morris, thank you so, so much for coming on the Rebel Justice Podcast, wish you all the very best of luck with everything that you're getting on within the future. I'm sure we'll speak to you again very soon.
Andrew Morris (45:46):
Thank you so much.
Trystan Kent (45:53):
Despite having been abolished in 2012, by not retrospectively undoing any existing IPPs still in place, thousands of prisoners are still being detained under IPP sentences to this stage. As of June, 2022, there were 8,576 IPPs still ongoing, 10 whole years after the sentences were abolished. The fight for justice goes on with several campaign groups organizing to put pressure on the government to address this oversight, but with no official position as yet, the future remains uncertain.
This has been The View Magazine's Rebel Justice Podcast. Join us next time for more interviews and discussion about justice, creativity, and building a better world. And for more in depth articles and features, you can also head to our online magazine at theviewmag.org.uk, or get the latest by following us on Twitter at Rebel underscore Justice, or our Instagram at the underscore view underscore magazines.