Volunteers needed to spend time behind bars
As lockdown restrictions begin to lift around the country and people start to enjoy a taste of freedom, Norfolk residents are being asked to voluntarily spend more time locked up.
Volunteers are needed to visit Norfolk’s custody facilities to check on the welfare of those detained by police and the conditions in which they are held.
In 2019/20, nearly 550 people detained by police received a welfare check from Norfolk’s Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) at one of the county’s four Police Investigation Centres in King’s Lynn, Aylsham, Great Yarmouth and Wymondham.
During National Volunteers Week, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who runs the county’s custody visiting scheme, is putting out a call for those interested in a truly unique volunteering opportunity to get in touch.
PCC Giles Orpen-Smellie said: “What they do is invisible to most but our custody visiting volunteers play a crucial role in safeguarding detainees and the police too.
“If you or one of your family members found yourself in police custody, wouldn’t you want someone checking on your welfare? It can be a daunting and frightening experience without being aware of your rights or entitlements – this is where custody visitors can help.
“By visiting detainees and reporting on what they see, ICVs are also offering public reassurance that the police are treating people with fairness and respect.
“The closest most people will get to looking behind a cell door is the police documentaries on television. Not only is this a unique and interesting volunteering opportunity, it’s also an opportunity to mark the lifting of Covid restrictions by using your free time and energy to give something back to society.”
Applications are being invited from individuals interested in joining the custody visiting panels in King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Aylsham or Wymondham.
To apply, you must be over 18, live in Norfolk and have lived in the UK for more than three years. Ideally applicants will be proficient in use of video conferencing software. Although this is a voluntary role, expenses are paid.
Successful applicants will need to attend an initial training course to prepare them for the role, and complete a six-month probationary period in order to be fully accredited.
Procedures, such as social distancing and the wearing of masks, are in place to keep volunteers, custody staff and detainees safe and comply with Covid guidance.
For more information, please visit our ICV webpage - or contact the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In their own words…Why current ICVs volunteer their time.
“I enjoy volunteering as an ICV as I feel that I am making a difference by supporting my local community, supporting the police to improve standards in custody suites and reassuring some people when they are at their most vulnerable. The training to become an ICV is challenging but rewarding and interesting."
“There can be few experiences as stressful as finding yourself in police custody. For many detainees it is a frightening, bewildering and disorientating experience. My experience as an ICV has been that the overwhelming majority of detained persons are grateful and comforted by the realisation that someone cares about their welfare, is willing to monitor their treatment and can ensure that they are being treated with dignity, compassion and respect. Knowing that my visits are so important and reassuring to people who are going through the trauma of custody gives me enormous satisfaction.”
“I volunteered to be an ICV some 15 years ago, as a colleague at the time cajoled me in to giving it a try. They said it was very interesting, only one visit a month, (an opportunity of doing more, but not a lot more) to a Police Investigation Centre and an opportunity of making life better for detained persons and indeed police staff. As an ICV you are never alone, and training gives one a good introduction of being able to make the right decisions and, if unsure, the opportunity of making contact with a senior ICV. An opportunity for travelling to other ICV areas for training sessions and annual meetings which in turn leads to a wonderful opportunity for networking.”