Do Prisoners Only Serve Half Their Sentence? An Overview

Prison Info

In the United Kingdom, the concept of serving half the sentence in prison is often misunderstood. It’s a topic filled with complexities, so let’s unravel it in detail.

Standard Determinate Sentences

Under UK law, if a prisoner gets a determinate sentence (fixed length), they’re likely to serve half of it in prison. After this, they’re freed on license to serve the rest within the community. This is termed as ‘automatic conditional release’.

Extended Determinate Sentences

Things differ slightly for Extended Determinate Sentences (EDS). In this case, the offender serves at least two-thirds in prison. Post that, they may only be released if the Parole Board believes it’s safe to free them.

Undeterminate Sentences

For indeterminate sentences, things are slightly different. The prisoner must serve a minimum term (tariff) set by the court. Once this minimum term is completed, the prisoner can apply to the Parole Board for release.

Life Sentence

In a life sentence, the criminal is subject to prison for life. However, the court sets a minimum term (tariff). After completing this, the prisoner can apply for parole. If denied, they can reapply every 2 years.

However, life sentence prisoners will remain on ‘life license’ after release, allowing them to be recalled at any time.

  1. Prisoners serving determinate sentences will typically serve half of their sentence in prison and half on license in the community.
  2. Prisoners who receive an extended determinate sentence need to serve at least two-thirds of their sentence.
  3. Indeterminate sentences & life sentences have varying lengths and are determined by the court and Parole Board.

Now that we understand the broad system, let’s try to delve in a bit deeper and understand the details.

Time Spent on Remand

When prisoners are kept in custody before their trials, it’s termed remand. Any time spent on remand can reduce your sentence. For instance, if a person spends 6 months on remand before receiving a 2-year sentence, they can expect to get released after serving a year in prison (6 months remand + 6 months prison = 1 year).

Recalling to Prison

Post-release, prisoners are not entirely free. They must report to a probation officer and follow certain terms and conditions. If these aren’t complied with, it can lead to getting recalled to prison.

  • Convicted prisoners can get recalled to prison if they break their license conditions.
  • Failing to adhere to the set terms or committing new crimes can lead to being recalled in prison.

Parole Board Hearings

Once a prisoner has served their minimum term, they can apply for a parole hearing. The Parole Board reviews the prisoner’s behaviour, progress, and threat to society before granting release.

In conclusion, understanding how long a prisoner serves in the UK is dependent on numerous factors. It’s based on the type of sentence received, behaviour in prison, and potential risk to society. The UK prison system aims to deliver justice while promoting prisoner rehabilitation into the community.

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