CONCERNS have been raised that indeterminate sentences are affecting the mental health of inmates at Cumbria’s prison.

A quarter of prisoners at HMP Haverigg are said to be serving sentences with no end date.

A report by independent volunteers raised concern the sentences were affecting the mental health of prisoners following a year of monitoring.

The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board produced the report following Haverigg’s first year as an open prison.

The board said: “Over 24 per cent of men at HMP Haverigg are serving Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection (IPP) with no release date.

“It is of concern that, despite significant progress made by many IPP prisoners, their testing period for release on temporary leave often appears to be delayed.

“In addition, the absence of a release date clearly has a negative impact on mental health.

“Although the overall reduction in the number of IPP prisoners nationally is welcomed, the board shares the view of other agencies that the abolition of the IPP sentence should apply retrospectively.”

The IPP sentence was abolished in 2012 but there were nearly 2,000 people in prison serving one at the end of last year, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Human rights group Amnesty International is among the campaigners who have called for IPP prisoners to be released, saying: “These continued detentions are arbitrary and those detained under them should be released unless it can be proved they remain a danger.

“The fact that this sentence regime has been repealed is clearly an acknowledgement that the IPP sentencing regime was unfair and unjust.”

“The number of unreleased IPP prisoners has fallen by two thirds since 2012.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We are helping those still in custody progress towards release, but as a judge deemed them to be a high risk to the public, it is important that the independent Parole Board decides if they are safe to leave prison.”

There were 1,849 unreleased IPP prisoners as of December 31, which represents a decrease of 13 per cent over the last 12 months, the MoJ said.

The spokesman added that a joint prison service and Parole Board action plan has been put in place to help prisoners serving public protection sentences to progress towards release.

After more than 50 years as a closed category C facility, HMP Haverigg became a category D open prison in December 2019.