A recruitment drive is on to find volunteers to oversee the workings of HMP Durham.
Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) for local prisons, made up of local people perform a vital watchdog role on behalf of Ministers and the general public in providing an independent over sight.
The IMB have specific responsibilities under the National Monitoring Framework (NMF) ranging from treatment of prisoners, monitoring the prison’s systems, facilities and the adequacy of programmes preparing prisoners for release.
The role is a voluntary one and Independent monitoring board members are made up from a wide diversity of people, from local communities.
The work of the board members is wide ranging, monitoring day to day life of those detained.
They ensure all rules and conditions are complied with, monitor all areas of the prison, listen to prisoner’s requests and concerns and establish professional working relationships with staff and prison providers.
Board member Christopher Hutchinson said: “I have been on the Durham Board for two years and following an excellent training programme, I was asked to observe and monitor areas such as healthcare, prisoner adjudications and work activities.
"The role has been challenging but stimulating, gaining the satisfaction of knowing you are providing a service which helps make your community a better place”
The board members at HMP Durham also have individual responsibilities which cover all aspects of detainment as well as working together as an effective team.
Christopher added: “My current responsibility is monitoring the drug and alcohol recovery programmes, and prior to my appointment I was not aware of the extent this involves.
”I have witnessed remarkable changes in those prisoners who have engaged and completed the programmes."
Due to retirements and to further strengthen, the board is looking to recruit new members.
The role is open to all members of the public and chairman of the board John Davidson said: "We welcome all applications from within the diverse communities the prison serves, and are particularly keen to receive applications from women as the board is currently under represented."
Board members do not need specific qualifications but John said “candidates must demonstrate effective communication, are non judgemental, demonstrate an ability to listen and challenge”
The time commitment is 4 half days per month which are flexible, and there is professional training and mentoring programs in operation.
There is no formal payment, however travelling expenses are paid.
Serving as a board member is recognised as a public duty and as such employers are obligated to allow employees reasonable time off to perform their duties. Employers can benefit from their employees who gain new skills which are transferable into the workplace.
John Davidson said: “This is an important role that we play in helping to make our communities a better place and I invite those people who feel they can fulfil this voluntary role to apply and make a huge contribution by delivering this vital service."
For information and application packs visit http://www.imb.org.uk/join-now/current-vacancies/ or go to https://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/regional-voluntary-justice-appointments/.
The closing date for applications is July 30.