Inspections, Complaints and the IMB

It is almost inevitable that if you are in prison something happens which you feel is unfair or incorrect, or an officer doesn’t “do their job properly” and you lose out as a result. Most of the time these issues are resolved without problem, but if you still feel aggrieved what can you do?

Firstly there is the internal complaints procedure within the prison. If you can’t get satisfaction from the officer or prison employee you are dealing with you can ask to speak the next person up the chain of command. Usually you will be asked to put your complaint in writing and this must be within 3 months of the incident about which you are unhappy.

Complaints forms are available on every wing and you shouldn’t have to ask a prison officer for one.  If your complaint is about being discriminated against you will need to fill out a Discrimination Incident Reporting Form (DIRF) and you will have to ask at the wing office for one of these forms. Remember to keep a copy of what you’ve written and post the form into a yellow complaints box found on most landings and in other communal parts of the prison. In theory your complaint is confidential but as it will be investigated by the prison staff themselves this confidentiality is faint comfort.

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome you can involved the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) The IMB is a group of independent people appointed by the government. They act as a ‘watchdog’ to make sure that the prison is being run properly and that prisoners are treated fairly. You can make a complaint to the IMB at any time but they will often only act if you have followed the  prison complaints procedure first.

To make a complaint, to the IMB ask to speak directly to a member of the Board or write to them. Keep a copy of the letter and mark the sealed envelope ‘Confidential Access’. Address it to the Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board. You will probably be allowed a degree of privacy when you talk to the sight IMB member, but they can pass on information to prison staff. Although the Board will usually talk to you before they pass on information, this won’t always happen.

If all this fails, and you still feel you have a real grievance you can complain to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, or even involve external legal professionals to argue your case. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman is independent of the Prison Service and can investigate most complaints made by prisoners. You should use the prison complaints procedure before you contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. It is worth recognising up front that making an appeal to the Ombudsman isn’t a quick process (months rather than days)

Complaints are taken very seriously by the prison system, and it is not unusual for all complaints to be reported to the #1 governor.

How Prisons Work