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Volunteers needed to keep check on conditions and inmates at Swaleside prison on Sheppey

By John Nurden

The body that monitors the conditions at one of Kent's biggest prison is looking for more people to help them.

Swaleside prison at Eastchurch is recruiting members of the public to join its Independent Monitoring Board.

Barry Page, who chairs the group, said: "I am looking for ordinary people to do an extraordinary job monitoring the prisoners' conditions."

Swaleside prison on the Isle of Sheppey (5861914)
Swaleside prison on the Isle of Sheppey (5861914)

No special knowledge or skills are needed as training will be given.

Mr Page said: "You just need to be open-minded, independent and able to commit three to four days a month."

He added: "The role is unpaid but it carries great responsibility and brings the rewards of knowing you are making a real difference to some of the most vulnerable people in our community."

A long-term prisoner at HMP Swaleside photographed on G Wing. Picture: Andy Payton (5868477)
A long-term prisoner at HMP Swaleside photographed on G Wing. Picture: Andy Payton (5868477)

Mr Page, 75, is a retired IT manager and magistrate. He said: "We are looking for trustworthy people from Sheppey and Sittingbourne who can work well in a team and talk to people from a range of backgrounds.

"It is a great opportunity to make a difference. It’s our job to know what’s going on in the prison. We get involved in all areas.

"It can be demanding but no two days are the same. You might find yourself helping a new arrival get the support they need to get off drugs, monitoring educational opportunities or listening to comments about the quality of the food."

Barry Page, chairman of Swaleside Independent Monitoring Board (5868144)
Barry Page, chairman of Swaleside Independent Monitoring Board (5868144)

Last year the IMB dealt with more than 1,000 applications from prisoners.

But Mr Page said: "We’re not a soft-touch. We make up our own minds about whether something is fair and decent and speak out when something isn’t right.

"We are a friendly and hard-working group. Although the role may look daunting, you will get all the support you need to play your part.”

Swaleside Prison, Brabazon Road, Eastchurch, Sheppey. Picture: Andy Payton (5868485)
Swaleside Prison, Brabazon Road, Eastchurch, Sheppey. Picture: Andy Payton (5868485)

The IMB ideally has 15 members. It is currently down to seven. There are two from Sittingbourne and one from Sheppey. Others come from Ashford, Deal and Sevenoaks.

Swaleside is a Category B men's prison which has a capacity of 1,112. It was opened in 1988 and deals with some of Britain's most difficult inmates.

To apply, visit www.imb.org.uk/join-now/current-vacancies and search for Swaleside.

Closing date for applications is Sunday, January 6.

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