August 3, 2020

‘Offering a Helping Hand’ to Families of People Sentenced to IPP

Dr Harry Annison
Associate Professor
University of Southamption Law School

We have all been struggling under conditions of ‘lockdown’ since mid-March. But this can in no way compare to the conditions faced by prisoners in England and Wales, where near 24- hour lockdown and very little (if any) contact with the outside world has become the norm.

There are particular anxieties faced by people serving Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) and other indeterminate sentences, whose progression and release is heavily reliant on engagement with training programmes and demonstrating in other ways efforts to lower their risk. All of this is made difficult, if not impossible, in the current circumstances. These difficulties also impact on families and friends.

For several years now, I have been conducting research on the experiences and needs of families of people sentenced to IPP. I have drawn on this collaborative work with families in order to advise stakeholders on specific actions that would help. First, to help families cope with the particular challenges of the IPP sentence. And second, to help people sentenced to IPP, and their families and others providing support to them, to achieve release and to manage the difficulties of life post-release and under licence.

In support of these goals, we – Spurgeons Children’s Charity, with Southampton University – have recently published a booklet ‘Offering a Helping Hand’, which is designed to support families of people sentenced to IPP, and those working with them. It has been developed to complement publications targeted at families of prisoners that have been, or soon will be, published by organizations including the Parole Board and HM Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS).

In particular, the booklet:

  • Reflects on the feelings that families of people serving IPP may be experiencing
  • Provides links and information about a number of relevant issues and processes
  • Identifies more general sources of information that might be particularly helpful
  • And identifies other ways in which families can get involved, and obtain support

Especially in the dramatically altered COVID-19 landscape, it is essential that criminal justice organisations recognise the particular needs of both people serving IPP sentences (including in the community) and the families and friends who provide support to them. We hope that this booklet contributes to this goal.

The booklet is available at

To request printed copies, please contact  Samantha Williams at

If you use the booklet and find it useful, or have other comments, we would be interested to hear from you. Please contact Dr Harry Annison at

Dr. Harry Annison is an Associate Professor at Southampton Law School, with main research focus being criminal justice. Harry is also working with the Parole Board and HMPPS to support their development of information materials for families of indeterminate-sentenced prisoners and also training/guidance for their staff. Follow Harry on Twitter at @harryannison

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