For the majority of life sentenced prisoners, the first crucial step towards release occurs three years prior to tariff expiry. This is generally when a life sentenced prisoner’s suitability for open conditions can be considered.
Whilst I appreciate that every person’s sentence is different and everyone progresses at different rates, many lifers find themselves treading water whilst waiting for that three year milestone.
Unfortunately, what many do not realise is that it is possible to advance their pre-tariff review and this process can begin 4 ½ years prior to tariff expiry.
Prison establishments have the option to submit a request to bring forward the date of a lifer’s pre-tariff review.
This is normally done when it is considered that the lifer has made suitable progress and has become a Category C prisoner (or a 2nd stage female prisoner) 4 ½ years before tariff expiry.
If an application for advancement is accepted, then the date of the pre-tariff review can then be brought forward by up to 6 months.
It is generally open to establishments to identify suitable cases and recommend the advancement of the pre-tariff review date to the Public Protection Casework Section (PPCS) case manager in order to increase the prisoner’s chances of release at tariff expiry.
The final decision on whether a pre-tariff review can be granted lies with PPCS.
In an ideal world, OMU staff should ideally identify any prisoners who may be eligible to apply for an advancement.
However, in my experience, most establishments do not have systems in place to identify such prisoners.
Given that Legal Aid funding is not currently in place to assist with pre-tariff review matters, I would encourage suitable candidates to contact their OMU department in the first instance to get the ball rolling or alternatively seek advice from a professional.
Once suitable candidates have been identified, a sentence planning review meeting (SPRM) should be organised.
Following this, an endorsement for an advancement is usually required by the Head of OMU, then the application is to be submitted to PPCS. This process can commence 4.5 years prior to tariff expiry.
It is worth mentioning that a decision to advance a review date does not guarantee that the end result will be successful.
But for those just treading water and counting down the days until that three year milestone, getting a review brought forward by six months could present a chance of earlier freedom for lifers who have progressed well in their sentences.
I wrote this piece on 1st February – this date is National Freedom Day in the US. It marks the day when Abraham Lincoln signed a resolution in order to abolish slavery in the US. It is the day on which many people in the US reflect on the importance of freedom. This little piece is written in the spirit of freedom.