Understanding the Duration of Prison Sentences in the UK

Prison Info

Understanding the duration of prison sentences in the UK can be complex, yet it’s important knowledge for everyone. Whether you’re a law student, a curious citizen, or someone with a loved one in prison, this information offers valuable insights. Let’s dive in!

How are Prison Sentences Determined?

In the UK, the judge who presides over the case determines the prison sentence based on aspects like the seriousness of the crime, the harm caused, and the offender’s previous criminal records.

Fixed Term and Indeterminate Sentences

There are generally two types of sentences given: fixed-term and indeterminate. A fixed-term sentence has a specific duration. Upon completion, the offender is released. However, an indeterminate sentence doesn’t have a set length. These sentences often are given for serious crimes, and release will depend on decisions made by the Parole Board.

Types of Fixed Term Sentences

  • Determinate sentences: Here, the offender is given a fixed length of time to serve in prison. They may be released halfway through this if they are considered not to be at risk.
  • Suspended sentences: In this case, the offender doesn’t go to prison right away, and will not go at all if they meet certain conditions.
  • Extended sentences: This comprises a standard sentence plus a further extended period of licence. This is used when the court believes the offender is a risk to the public.

Types of Indeterminate Sentences

  • Life sentences: Offenders must spend a minimum period in prison before they are eligible for parole. If granted parole, they will remain on ‘life licence’ and can be sent back to prison if they break their licence conditions.
  • Imprisonment for public protection (IPP): These sentences were given to offenders deemed dangerous by the court. The offender must prove they are safe for release. Note, this type of sentencing is no longer used but there are still prisoners serving IPP sentences.

Temporary Release

Temporary release schemes allow eligible prisoners to spend a short period outside prison. These schemes aim to prepare them for life after release to help reduce reoffending.

Parole and Probation

In some cases, the offender might be released on parole after serving a certain percentage of their sentence. While on parole, they are supervised and must abide by the conditions of their parole. If they violate these terms, they could be sent back to prison.


The duration of a prison sentence in the UK varies considerably. It is determined by factors such as the nature of the crime, criminal history, and potential risk to society. The focus remains on delivering justice while also working towards successful rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender back into society.

Need More Information?

Prison sentences can be overwhelming to understand, especially for those experiencing it firsthand or having loved ones go through it. Feel free to explore our website for more comprehensive and easy-to-understand information on UK prisons.

Note: All information is subject to change as per changes in UK law and policies, and users are requested to keep themselves updated accordingly.

What is the cheapest way to call from Prison?

It is by far cheaper to call landline numbers - however landlines are becoming less common in homes & it is by far more convenient to call your loved ones mobile incase you are calling when they aren't at home. Our call packages gives you the best of both worlds - landline call pricing, but the prisoner can call you on your mobile!

Is it cheaper to call a landline from prison?

Most definitely - YES! Mobiles can cost over 25p per minute, the precious phone credit runs out very fast! Our unlimited prison calls package saves money whilst adding the convenience of being able to pickup calls on your mobile.
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