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'From lost trainers to being threatened with weapons' - what life in Norfolk's prisons is really like

PUBLISHED: 16:57 24 July 2019

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which oversees conditions at the countys two jails, HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland, is recruiting volunteers to boost its ranks. Pictured, inside Norwich Prison. Photo: Angela Sharpe

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which oversees conditions at the countys two jails, HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland, is recruiting volunteers to boost its ranks. Pictured, inside Norwich Prison. Photo: Angela Sharpe

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From drugs and violence, to orange jumpsuits and bad food, clichés about life behind bars are something we're all familiar with.

Volunteers can go anywhere at any time and ask for any piece of information. Pictured, accommodation at HMP Wayland. Photo: Angela SharpeVolunteers can go anywhere at any time and ask for any piece of information. Pictured, accommodation at HMP Wayland. Photo: Angela Sharpe

But a little-known organisation - made up of everyone from business owners, social workers and counsellors, to students, parents and carers - is offering the chance to get to know what the daily reality of life in our county's prisons is actually like.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), which oversees conditions at the county's two jails, HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland, is recruiting volunteers to boost its ranks.

Volunteer, Nicola, who did not wish to give her last name, said: "You need to be able to talk to anybody. We talk to a lot of very diverse people - sex offenders to rapists and murderers.

"You could be talking to someone homeless who put a bottle through a window - but because they were cold and tired and wanted somewhere to live."

The volunteers are appointed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and are completely independent. Pictured, Norwich Prison. Photo: Angela SharpeThe volunteers are appointed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and are completely independent. Pictured, Norwich Prison. Photo: Angela Sharpe

Nicola, who has volunteered with the IMB since 2008, described the role as "vital", and said: "We can go anywhere at any time and ask for any bit of paper and any information.

"One minute someone could have lost a trainer and think the prison isn't finding it for them.

"The next we can be with a person talking about being threatened with a weapon.

"It can vary from the sublime to the ridiculous."

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The team of volunteers oversee all aspects of prison life.

"We're there to ensure it's fair, just and humane," Nicola said.

"Part of the role is to see human rights are respected.

"HMP Norwich is a remand prison - you've got people who haven't been convicted and might be innocent."

The volunteers are appointed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and are completely independent.

"It's a unique role and a great opportunity to make a positive difference," said IMB Wayland chairman Trish Phillips.

And IMB Norwich chairman Stephanie Amey added: "We're the eyes and ears of the public."

Full training is given, with no experience required for the role.

Applications welcomed from all over 18s, who are observant, good team players, and can give three to four days a month.

To find out more about the role, visit the IMB website www.imb.org.uk or call 020 3334 3265, quoting 973/Norwich/Wayland.

The application closing date is Tuesday, September 1, 2019.

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