Bishop Rachel encourages each of us to consider whether we could serve on a prison Independent Monitoring Board as an expression of our faith.
“There is a strong need to recruit people to prison Independent Monitoring Boards, and it would be wonderful if people could consider this as one way of living out our Christian faith. I have been liaising with Anne Owers, National Chair of the IMBs, who has written:
‘In every community, there are people who are out of sight and out of mind, behind prison walls. It is important that they are treated fairly and humanely, and that they are helped to change and reintegrate into society, because at some point, perhaps very soon, they will return to those communities.
‘So, in every community there are also independent monitoring boards or IMBs: members of the public, appointed by ministers, with unrestricted access to a nearby prison and those within it. They work with others, contributing their own experience and gaining new skills. They gain a unique insight into what can make prisons, and therefore society, a better place.’
Anne goes on to say: ‘Reaching out to those who are excluded is fundamental to social justice, and is reflected in the teaching of all faiths. One of the most familiar biblical texts expresses this in simple and practical terms: the call to visit those in prison. I know that all across the country, prison chaplaincies organise visiting groups to support individual prisoners. IMBs have a different, but equally important, role: as an independent presence in prisons, every week of the year. It is an opportunity not just to witness what is happening behind prison walls but also to influence the way prisoners are supported and given the opportunity to change and rebuild their lives.’
Between now and 11 September there is a drive to recruit new members across all regions in England and Wales. If you’re interested, please do discuss it with a church leader as part of your discernment process and then visit www.imb.org.uk/join-now to find out more or to apply.”