The Association of Members of Boards of Visitors (AMBoV) became AMIMB in 2003, when BoV became IMB after the Lloyd report. The AMBoV Quarterly, which had been published almost since AMBoV was founded in 1980, became Independent Monitor.


  • The Association of Members of Boards of Visitors (AMBoV) became AMIMB in 2003, when BoV became IMB after the Lloyd report. The AMBoV Quarterly, which had been published almost since AMBoV was founded in 1980, became Independent Monitor.

    Later that year, there was correspondence on the initiative, including the Times letter appended here. AMBoV held its first AGM in November 1980 (at Bedford College) and the first AMBoV Quarterly, with Jane Blom-Cooper as editor, appeared in April 1981. It included digests of Prison Service circular instructions and prison inspectorate reports. At that time, there was a Chairman of Conference and a Co-ordinating Committee (equivalent to the NC) and a Home Office Liaison person. The General statement of Aims and Principles which stressed AMBoV’s independence, argued that BoVs’ dependence on the Home Office militated against their credibility and thus effectiveness. It stated the wish to open up prisons, and what was being done in them, in the name of the people in the community at large. In his address to the BoV Annual Conference in October 1980 Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw unequivocally stated that he had no objection to the establishment of an independent association. It was a matter, he said, for BoV members individually to determine. But Home Office officials and the chair of the BoV Annual Conference acted otherwise and frustrated the launch of AMBoV. The letters of invitation that were sent to members to join were in many institutions not distributed and the Home Office wrote to every Board chair emphasising their opposition to the initiative.

    Yet the number and frequency of reviews of BoV suggests the system was not working as well as it could do (Jellicoe 1975, Maguire and Vagg 1984, Prior 1985, Woolf 1991, Raising and Forsyth 1995). The membership grew – 100 by summer 1981. Initially AMBoV’s formation helped open up the debate about Boards of Visitors which culminated in the reforms recommended at the end of the 1980s and which were endorsed by the Woolf Inquiry of 1990. In April 1992 Boards’ disciplinary/adjudicatory functions were removed.

    In October 95 Judge Tumin said of the Ministerial Review ‘…the politics associated with the existence of the two bodies combined with the nature of each Board up and down the country has led to various kinds of controversy – the Co-Ordinating Committee was not regarded by some boards as an effective body to speak for them; AMBoV , as readers will be aware, has often been seen as the troublesome terrier, and some Boards preferred to be radical and alone…….everyone was agreed that one body was better than two. However, I believe that you have to address the problem thus created.. how do you keep alive the spirit of debate and challenge with the organisation that has so effectively been provided by AMBoV. I think the need for AMBoV is as strong as ever, hope it continues to speak strongly and display an independence of mind – a little like a Chief Inspector of Prisons has to do’ (our italics)

    Queen Elizabeth 1 established Visiting Committees of Justices of the Peace for local prisons. A two-tier system developed and JPs of County Quarter Sessions were responsible for visiting County Gaols and JPs of Borough benches for local Borough Gaols.

  • 1898 Prison Act required every convict prison to have a Board of Visitors consisting of magistrates and members of the public.

    1971 Courts Act Abolished Quarter Sessions and consequently Visiting Committees. Boards of Visitors were established for all types of prison establishment.

    2000 Review of Boards of Visitors – the Lloyd Review

    2003 Parts of the Lloyd Review were introduced including National Council elections, plus the change to IMB (which had been on the agenda from the early 1980s).

    2003 The name BoV was changed to IMB. This was a huge step forward and removed the confusion over the role. (The previous title allowed it to be inferred that ours was a befriending role.)

    2003 In June our journal became the Independent Monitor and at the November AGM AMIMB was formally agreed as the our name.

    2010 AMIMB’s 30th birthday and the Independent Monitors’ 100th edition

    2012 The National Council suddenly decided to ‘suspend its current arrangements for liaising with AMIMB’.

  • An Article appearing in The Times dated 15 October 1980 by Louis Blom Cooper described: “A nucleus of members of boards of visitors has formed itself into a group with the purpose of establishing an independent association”. To read in full click here 

    Board of Visitors: A personal view by Pat Haynes March 1980

    Minutes of meeting 2nd July 1980

    Minutes of Region Meeting 25.4.83/Page 1 Page 2