My first sight of Colin was as a lanky manifestation lying on a desk in the Dartmoor prison education department where I was working as the writer-in-residence. He looked a bit like Ian Curtis; he was mid-twenties, clever and funny. He was also on an IPP — imprisonment for public protection sentence — for GBH, and because IPPs were indeterminate sentences, he had no release date. When he was 18 he had got drunk on a train, beaten a man up and kicked him in the head. It was the kick that got him the IPP, at a time ‘when they were handing them out like sweets’.
By 2012, the year I met him, he had served six years on what should have been a two-year tariff (sentence) and there were 5,949 other IPP prisoners clogging up the landings of British prisons.