17 hours in custody
In October of last year Independent Custody Visitor (ICV) manager for Sussex, Sarah Friend, spent 17 hours in custody to get a snapshot of the experience a detainee has from arrest to next day release. Since then she has made some radical changes to the standards of cells across the county, including the installation of drinking water and replacement mattresses.
Commenting on her stay, Sarah said: “I was keen to look into having drinking water in the cells, as this would not only help the detainee but save on staff time going to and from the kitchen.
“I also investigated if there’s a national standard for mattresses in cells. The length of the bench was fine - I’m 6 foot tall and could lie straight. I was happy with the temperature and cleanliness of the cells; when I asked for a toothbrush I got one, and my neighbours got the extra food they asked for. However, the mattresses were old, worn and very thin.
“More than ever I stand by the change I’d like to see to female hygiene in custody; it’s not a pleasant experience using the toilet in a cell anyway, but to make a female who is menstruating have to buzz every time she needs certain products just isn’t right in my opinion. Sussex now offers a good variety of products but I still feel there’s work to be done in this area.”
Sarah’s job is a unique one at the best of times. She manages a team of volunteers who check on the welfare of detainees held in custody. They make unscheduled visits at any time of the day or night to custody suites across Sussex speaking to their detainees and ensuring their rights are being upheld.
Across the UK in 2017/18 Independent Custody Visitors made well over 9,000 visits to police custody to check on detainees, visiting over 28,000 people. From a portion of those visits in Sussex the changes made already have been ground breaking, especially the lobbying of the government with PCC Katy Bourne (who funds the scheme) to supply a range of menstrual products for female detainees.
Sarah is looking for ICV volunteers in Eastbourne to join her team. If you want to ensure the rights of detainees are being upheld and offer support to someone at a particularly difficult time then this is the role for you. There really is no other volunteer opportunity like it.
To read Sarah’s blog click here: https://www.sussex-pcc.gov.uk/about/independent-custody-visitor-blog/
To apply to become an ICV click here: https://www.sussex-pcc.gov.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
If you have been in custody and visited by an ICV Sarah would be keen to hear from you and get some feedback. You can email her directly at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org
17 hours in custody video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9uQ6gBKXGw