From the Chair Christopher Padfield
AMIMB – the immediate future
IMB needs a voice. We believe that without AMIMB this voice will not be heard., AMIMB intends to raise its voice, but needs the support of our members.
An outline plan for the immediate future of AMIMB will be put up for discussion at the forthcoming AGM (11 October 2016 at 2 Temple Place). It aims to respond both to the main needs and opportunities, and to the practicalities of the current situation.
The greatest need, as the executive committee of the AMIMB sees it, is to achieve a public voice for Independent Monitoring Boards – to let the British public know what we, as monitors, think about prison and immigration detention policy and practice in England and Wales and the impact this has on the men, women and children detained; to achieve some public recognition for the role of IMBs; in short to speak out about what we hear and see. We have urged the National Council to do this itself, but to no avail. In character, the NC propose as their contribution to the Parliamentary Justice Select Committee’s current consultation on Prison Reform, a response to a procedural question: ‘are existing mechanisms for … independent scrutiny of prisons fit for purpose?’ If the NC cannot or will not speak out, AMIMB should.
After 13 years as editor of the Independent Monitor, family circumstances force Brian Guthrie to stand down. Your Chair, and long serving AMIMB stalwarts Angela Clay, Jenny Budgell and Tamsin Lucchesi likewise. We have appealed for volunteers to come forward to work with us on the executive committee and on the Monitor, but without proportional result. The exec now numbers just three members who will, after Christmas, still be serving on boards. For AMIMB to take this vision forward we need a number of volunteers who share this and want to be part of AMIMB’s IMB voice.
We have decided that the delayed September issue of the Monitor will be the last for the foreseeable future. Our effort will go into the website (recently impressively upgraded, for which thanks to Joe Gardham). Also, crucially, workshops designed to allow members to meet and formulate common views that will (a) contribute to articles that we will write, principally for the website, and (b) contribute to closer co-working on issues between boards. We hope in these ways to help IMBs raise their performance and their profile.
Despite IMBs’ best efforts prisons are in crisis. The association was formed nearly 40 years ago because members were concerned about the lack of independence from government. This is as relevant today as it was then.