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Bring in Independent Prison Monitoring Boards

Arthur Taylor may be tip of iceberg – bring in Independent Prison Monitoring Boards

The regularity with which prisoner Arthur Taylor’s complaints have been found to have been justified, has led Rethinking Crime and Punishment to call for the establishment of Independent Prison Monitoring Boards to be established at each prison. Spokesperson Kim Workman said there is growing concern that Prison Managers are not abiding with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which bring together international consensus about what is considered good principle and practice in the treatment of prisoners and the management of institutions.

“The growing view is that the treatment of Arthur Taylor is the tip of the iceberg. We consider there is an increased role for civil society in prisons, and that the establishment of Independent Monitoring Boards at each prison can mitigate the ‘power and control’ culture, which leads to an increase in lockdown hours, and the poor treatment of prisoners.”

“The value of volunteers or external independent observers is widely recognised and has led to the establishment of Visitor Panels [VPs] or Independent Monitoring Boards [IMBs] in most Commonwealth countries. Independent Monitoring Boards (IBM’s) are made up of ordinary members of the public who volunteer 2-3 days per month, to monitor daily life in a local prison. They have unrestricted 24/7 access, and ensure that proper standards of care are maintained. They can talk to any prisoner they wish, if necessary out of hearing of prison officers. They play an important role in dealing with problems inside the prison. If a prisoner or detainee has an issue that he or she has been unable to resolve through the usual internal channels, he or she can put in a confidential request to see a member of the IMB. Problems might include concerns over lost property, visits from family or friends, special religious or cultural requirements, or even serious allegations such as bullying.

“When Baroness Vivien Stern visited New Zealand in 2012, she told Parliamentarians that IMBs have done more than any prison management regime or Government plan to improve the quality of life for prisoners and the working environment for staff,” said Mr Workman. “The principal value of independent volunteers is that they bring the general values of the community into prison and represent the community in whose name punishment is meted out. They are the indicators for societal normality and a reference point for those removed from society for a long time.”

“Research shows that where there is a concentration of volunteers moving in and out of a prison, there is an absence of violence and corruption. Volunteers serve to stabilize the prison environment – prisoners welcome visitors as “people who care”, and their response to volunteers is generally courteous and positive. The negative behaviour associated with the prison culture is put on hold.

Ends

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