Independent Monitoring Board
The what? Never heard of it? Not surprising, really; everyone knows what prisons are for, and that they all have governors and prison officers – and, of course, inmates. But Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) are little known. This is not an accident, because they work quietly, and don’t advertise themselves, although, in fact, every prison has to have one, by law. What are they?
Their job is to be a public presence inside a jail, to see and know how the prison works. Prisoners often have problems which they find difficult to deal with, and they can and do apply to talk to a member of the IMB, who will help them find the right way to sort things out.
The Board visits the prison on a rota basis, and, as well as being available to prisoners, members also go round all parts of the prison and talk to staff. IMB members are all volunteers and come from all walks of life. No qualifications are necessary, other than a real concern to be of service, being honest and of good character. On the Board at Acklington there have, at various times been bricklayers, hairdressers, fire fighters, teachers, university professors, business people, a premiership football referee, a pub keeper, ex-service people – you name it.
It’s a very privileged, fascinating thing to do, and it is a very British way of doing things. Members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice, but once appointed, every Board acts with true independence; they are not part of the Prison Service or of Government. Members have the right to go into the prison at almost any time, and to visit almost every part of it.
If you are interested, the Acklington/Castington Board has spaces at present. If you’d like to know more, here’s what you can do: look on the IMB website, www.imb.gov.uk, or ring Acklington Prison, 01670 762300 and ask for the IMB Clerk, or write to; Clerk to the IMB, HMP Acklington, NE65 9XF. If you do become a member, full training is given and expenses are paid.