Volunteers are needed to help check on the welfare of prisoners on Portland.

The Independent Monitoring Board is recruiting people who will be able to dedicate time to go to HMP/YOI Portland to ensure prisoners are being treated with decency and fairness.

Vice chairman of Portland IMB Anna Knight said: “At a time when prisons are in the news and have been the subject of a lot of concern, independent monitoring is more important than ever. The news can make the picture of prisons look bleak, but an enormous amount of positive work goes on and some great people work in the prison service.”

She added that volunteers with the IMB observe prison life in a balanced way – but also try to drive improvements.

“Prison is a place of incarceration, of course, and has its problems. But there is something about Portland Prison that makes you feel part of a community, working for the good. You quickly feel a bond with the place.”

The group wants to hear from people who live within a 25-mile radius of the prison, and is especially interested in hearing from people who live on Portland. People would need to be able to make three to five visits to the prison each month. Training is given.

Mrs Knight added: “Ideally you’d be a calm and unflappable person, a good listener able to relate to all sorts of people, observant, humane and fair-minded.

“It’s a responsible and challenging but rewarding role. Board members are issued with keys and can go to any part of the prison – residential wings, the Care and Separation Unit, Healthcare, workshops – at any time of the day or night. 

"They can access records and talk to prisoners and staff. They attend and observe any serious incidents, respond to prisoner complaints, meet with the Governor and report annually on their observations to the Ministry of Justice.”

One of Portland IMB's newer members, Dr. Faysal Mikdadi said: “The visits that I enjoy most are those sunny days when I can walk around the grounds meeting with and chatting to prisoners and officers. There is a healthy sense of humour in evidence in Portland that keeps the wheels going round day to day.”

“The prisoners can spend a lot of time in workshops, in the classrooms and around the prison carrying out work for which they are paid a small wage. I thoroughly enjoy being with them during these times, listening to their views on what they are doing and seeing the products of their labour.”

The Board is recruiting now and applications close on September 24. To apply, or for more information, visit www.imb.org.uk or call 020 3334 3265 quoting 587/Portland/2017.