Should we support the right to escape from prison?

Richard Garside
Friday, 10 June 2022

Should those who work in, with and around prisons, or who campaign for prison reform, support the right of prisoners to escape?

This week, an escaped prisoner appeared on an episode of the Birmingham-based podcast, The Chop Shop.

"I'm not hiding from nobody, my name's Greggor Grey" he said. He went on to say that he had absconded from HMP Sudbury, an open prison, in mid-May because of the "injustice and heartache" he had endured, saying that he cried himself to sleep every night.

According to reports, he was initially given a prison sentence of four years, for robbery offences. Seventeen years on, he remained languishing in prison because of the sentence he had received: the unjust Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence; a life-sentence in all but name.

IPPs, introduced by the last Labour government, were judged to be so unjust that they were scrapped in 2012. But not retrospectively. Hence, prisoners like Greggor Grey remain stuck in an Orwellian nightmare.

The IPP sentence is currently the subject of an ongoing inquiry by the House of Commons Justice Committee, upon which much hope is currently resting among IPP prisoners, their familes and friends. We have been following the inquiry closely and are currently finalising a report on the psychological impact of the IPP sentence.

We have also been working closely with those active in the campaign against the IPP sentence. Two of the most active campaigners – Shirley Debono and Donna Mooney – joined me on the February edition of our Lunch with... series. You can watch the discussion here.

There will be many queuing up to criticise Greggor Grey; to point out that a return to prison, and quite possibly a number more years behind bars, is the only likely outcome. But when a system is so unjust, as the IPP sentence is, resistance through escape is an entirely reasonable and rational response.

I hope that when the authorities finally catch up with him – and there are reports that he plans to turn himself in – he will be treated with compassion and understanding, and that every possible step is taken to release him, as quickly as possible, from his current torment.

You can watch Greggor Grey's appearance on The Chop House podcast, and make up your own mind, here.