Volunteers sought for new prison monitoring scheme

Volunteers are being sought from Dumfries and Galloway to be at the forefront of the biggest change to prison visiting in over a century.

They will be part of the new Independent Prison Monitoring Scheme which will come into place later this year and will take over from the current prison visiting committees.

Under this independent monitoring service which will provide greater scrutiny of all Scotland’s prisons, the volunteers will go to prisons in their local communities on a regular basis, review the conditions and treatment of prisoners and investigate matters referred to them.

They will be able to visit the prisons at any time without prior notice during the day, evening, at weekends and occasionally at night, access any area of the facility and speak to any prisoners privately about any issue.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland, which has responsibility for supporting the scheme, is encouraging people from Dumfries and Galloway who may be interested in becoming a volunteer at HMP Dumfries to contact them.

David Strang, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, said: “Independent Prison Monitors will be appointed for each of Scotland’s prisons and young offender institutions. They will play a key role in providing a system where improvements can be made to conditions in prisons and the treatment of prisoners, should they be needed.

“We are keen that the monitors reflect society at large and, in particular, the prison population. Therefore we are looking for people from a range of different backgrounds, from all ages and with a variety of experiences.

“The role is challenging, yet rewarding, providing an independent viewpoint on the humane treatment and conditions for prisoners at the volunteers’ local prisons. It is an unusual but very important form of voluntary work, listening to and supporting prisoners and positively impacting on their lives and their local community.”

People currently on visiting committees are welcome to apply to join the Independent Prison Monitoring Scheme. Mr Strang said: “They have made a valuable and important contribution to supporting prisoners and monitoring their treatment and conditions. They have faithfully visited Scotland’s prisons for many years and made a difference to the lives of prisoners they have assisted.”

Four full time co-ordinators, who will manage the volunteers and the scheme on a daily basis, have been recruited. They will help with the full initial training and provide continuing support when the scheme begins on August 31. Once in post, volunteers are likely to commit between 14 and 22 days a year including training and meetings.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer should contact prisonmonitoring@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or find out more information on the scheme and application forms at HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland website www.gov.scot/about/public-bodies/hmip or at https://applications.appointed-for- scotland.org/pages/job_search_view.aspx?jobId=797