RESIDENTS of Gwent are wanted to join the board of a major south Wales prison, and help monitor conditions at the site.

Cardiff Prison wants people from the area to help bring any concerns to the attention of prison managers and the Ministry of Justice.

Steve Cocks, chair of the prison’s independent monitoring board, who is from Gwent, said it was a rewarding role.

“Our basic task is to monitor that expected standards of decency and care are being maintained, but also to monitor that the support is in place which will allow prisoners to turn their lives around,” he said.

“We believe that we are doing a vital job and, although it can be demanding, it is varied, interesting and rewarding.

“It often surprises people when they find out that we draw keys and have complete access to the prison.

“With a few exceptions we have the right to go anywhere in the prison, speak to who we want and see any documents.

“The prison receives many men from the Gwent area and currently I am the only person from the area on the board; it would be good to have one or two more.”

Board members carry out a wide range of activities within the prison, including sampling food, checking the condition of cells, visiting education facilities, monitoring the admission of new prisoners and sitting in on the Governor’s disciplinary hearings.

“We are also called out in the event of any serious incidents in the prison, though these are rare,” added Mr Cocks.

“Like all prisons, Cardiff has faced a number of challenges, but it is generally a well run prison. I have never felt uncomfortable during my visits. Prisoners overwhelmingly value the work of the board and are positive towards us.

“As damning stories of the state of some of our prisons hit the headlines, the need for an independent voice on conditions is more important than ever.”

The work is voluntary and board members are not paid, though expenses are available and it is possible to claim loss of earnings.

Board members are usually expected to make three to four visits to the prison each month, including a monthly board meeting. A member can serve up to 15 years on one board and the fact that so many people do so is clear evidence of how rewarding the role can be.

“We are looking for people who might want to join us,” said Mr Cocks. “Board members are not required to have any particular qualifications, but need to have common sense, tact, a sense of fairness, good communication skills and be open minded.”

More information and an application form is available from: Or call 02920 923342.