Who’s Got the Keys?

A couple of months ago a prisoner here was granted his parole and yet he wasn’t released until weeks later and everyone who got involved simply said that they had not yet been told to let him go. There was no reasoning, no logic. No explanation whatsoever.

At his parole hearing his probation officer argued that he couldn’t be released because it would only be safe to release him if he is able to spend a period in a probation hostel before moving to his own premises, and there were no available beds to enable this to happen.

The parole board countered that, if that was the only obstacle, the probation service had had ample time to prepare for the prisoner’s imminent release and arrange for a bed to be made available accordingly. Having waited until the hearing, they could not argue that a bed was not available and should instead ensure one is made available without delay and that the prisoner should be released as soon as this has been done.

His solicitor pestered the probation officer consistently until confirmation was received that a bed had been made available and that the prisoner could now be released. But no one did release him. The parole board had done their bit, ordering that he be released as soon as the bed is ready. Probation had done all they had been asked, arranging the bed. The prison had been told both of these things but had not directly been told to release him now and so they continued to do their bit, keeping him contained. In the meantime he was a free man on the wrong side of the wall.

Breakdowns in communication are common in the criminal justice system, but when a breakdown as significant as this leads to a person spending longer than necessary in prison, you have to ask yourself, who holds the keys anyway?

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