This article offers an evaluation of the use of volunteers in providing accountability of state detention in the prison system of England and Wales through a review of their efforts to monitor the humane and just treatment of those held in custody. A content and dialogical analysis was conducted on 280 reports submitted to the Secretary of State to analyze their practice of reporting and monitoring of equality and diversity. The article argues that the use of volunteers is appropriate to performing monitoring functions that act to enhance intelligent accountability, but volunteers are ineffective for the purposes of improving technical accountability. Evidence suggests some role confusion and use of volunteers for the achievement of both intelligent and technical accountability. The use of volunteers for the latter may result in poor quality repetition of other reporting mechanisms. In addition, it is argued that members require better training, and clearer communications concerning expectations from their reporting functions, which in turn is linked to the quality of their monitoring. The volunteers’ monitoring and surveillance of the detention estate can be more than symbolic and may act as a crucial antidote to technical accountability, furthering the humane and just treatment of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
- prison studies
- social sciences
- social change and modernization