A: No. A Prison Visitor visits inmates who have no other visitors, perhaps because they are far from home or have no close relatives to visit them. To find out more about this type of work please contact the National Association of Official Prison Visitors
Each immigration removal centre also has a visitors’ group, whose members visit and befriend detainees. Again this is different to the role of IMB members, who are there to be independent monitors.
A: By law every prison and immigration removal centre must have an Independent Monitoring Board. IMBs in prisons derive their responsibilities from the Prison Act 1952 (Section 6), whereas IMBs in immigration removal centres derive their responsibilities from the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
Until April 2003, IMBs in prisons were known as ‘Boards of Visitors’ and IMBs in immigration removal centres were known as ‘Visiting Committees’. They are still referred to in the legislation under their old titles, although this is likely to change in the near future.
The principle of independent monitoring of prisons is one that has been around since Tudor times, although the IMBs of today are very different to those that existed in the past. IMBs in immigration removal centres were established more recently following an inspection in 1989 of what was then Harmondsworth Detention Centre.
A: The role of an immigration removal centre (IRC) is to hold people detained under immigration legislation. Most of these are people whose claim for asylum has been refused, and who are awaiting removal from the United Kingdom. IRCs also house time-served foreign national offenders awaiting deportation. The length of stay ranges from a few hours to several months. Detainees may have launched an appeal against their removal and be awaiting a court appearance or a decision.
The detainees are not criminals and are allowed as much free association as possible within a relaxed environment. There can be as many as 45 different nationalities within a centre at any one time. One centre also contains a family unit. A large part of the IMB role in these establishments is ensuring that the services provided meet detainees’ diverse needs. There are currently seven immigration removal centres in England and one in Scotland.
A: During the first six months of being an IMB member you will attend a New Members’ Course. This will allow you to meet other new IMB members in your region and learn about the role of the board. You will also receive on-the-job training from experienced members of your local board. Later on you will have the chance to attend additional training courses, as well as an opportunity to attend the annual conference for IMBs.
A: Yes. Being a member of an IMB will take up an average of 2-3 days per month of your time and many of our members are in full time employment. The timing of monitoring visits is flexible and can usually be scheduled outside of working hours, although there are some Boards which hold their monthly meetings during the morning or afternoon. You may also very occasionally need to attend training days during working hours, although we try to keep this to a minimum.
Being a member of a prison IMB is recognised as a public duty under the Employment Rights Act 1996, which means your employer is obliged to allow you ‘reasonable’ time off in order to perform your role as a Board member. For further information on this, please contact the IMB Secretariat on 0203 334 3265.
A: IMBs are all unpaid volunteers. However, members are able to claim expenses, for example for the cost of travelling in and out of the establishment for visits or board meetings, or for costs incurred as a result of attending IMB training courses. Members are also able to claim financial loss allowance in some circumstances, which may include the cost of childcare.
A: You can not join to an IMB if your appointment would lead to a potential conflict of interest, for example if you have a business involvement in supplying a service to the prison or immigration removal centre, or if you have a close friend or relative inside. However, decisions are made on an individual basis and in many instances it is possible to become a member of a nearby Board where such a conflict will not arise. If you are worried about a possible conflict please contact the IMB Secretariat on 0203 334 3265 and we would be happy to discuss this with you.
A: Once you submit your application to become an IMB member you will be invited to attend an interview, which will be conducted by two members of your local board and an independent panel member from another IMB. The interview panel will write to the Minister, who makes the final decision as to whether or not you should be appointed.
A. Once you have returned your application form you will be contacted by the chair of your local IMB, who will invite you on a tour of the prison or immigration removal centre. Following your tour you will be invited to attend an interview, conducted by two members of your local board and independent panel member from another IMB.
IMB members have full access to their local prison or immigration removal centre at any time, day or night. For this reason all our members must be security cleared, and this can take some time, depending on the level of clearance required for that particular establishment.
The whole appointments process usually takes from a few weeks up to six months, although we try to ensure times are kept to a minimum and keep applicants informed throughout the process. We understand that the wait can be frustrating but hope that you will appreciate why it is necessary.
A. The average is around 3 days per month. However, this will vary between IMBs, and each individual vacancy notice will specify the average time commitment per month for the individual IMB recruiting. Some flexibility around when you carry out IMB duties may be available but this will depend on the needs of the IMB and the individual. However, it is possible that at least some of the input may need to be carried out during normal working hours. Further information will be provided at interview.
Each Board meets regularly, once per month, and has an elected Chair and Vice Chair. Board members work together as a team to raise any matters of concern and to keep an independent eye on the establishment they monitor. Every year they produce an annual report, which is published to the local community.