Carlos has been an independent custody visitor since 2008. He is employed at the University of Glasgow and lives in the Southside of the city. Carlos explains why he decided to become a custody visitor.
Why did you volunteer to become an independent custody visitor?
I am a firm believer in giving something back to society, being an independent custody visitor is an excellent opportunity to make a contribution by ensuring that our services, in this case the social order monitored by the Police, are fair and mindful of detainees human rights.
How long have you been doing this?
The first training I attended was in November 2008, I have been doing one or two visits each month since then. It is incredibly flexible as you only put in as much as you can and it can be fitted around your personal schedule, holidays etc. and it’s not too demanding (about an hour for the visit plus travel).
What do you enjoy about it?
Being an independent custody visitor allows me to have a different understanding of how the Scottish Police Authority operates. I now appreciate the challenges that police staff face every day and particularly the lengths to which they can go to be fair and giving even in the most adverse situations.
What is the most interesting aspect of being an independent custody visitor?
The independent custody visitors can be the only contact a detainee has with the outside world in a moment of significant stress. This means that no visit is the same and every time I learn something new, whether it concerns the law, the procedures or the 'heartbeat of the place' as indicated through the number of detainees on a given day. We have to operate alongside the police force while they do their job, which can be testing at times. Coming out of the Custody Suites knowing that the police are doing their job properly and that the detainees are well looked after is simply a great feeling.
What experience do you need to become an independent custody visitor?
Full training is giving to all custody visitors so there is no previous experience required. That said, attention to detail, being empathic and people skills come in handy, a little bit of good auld doric helped when he lived and volunteered in the North!
Do you make the visits on your own?
Independent Custody Visitors cannot undertake visits on their own; these are done in pairs (your Custody Visitor partner, another fully trained visitor) as this ensures impartiality, safety, and promotes a sense of camaraderie, which is essential for the good functioning of the scheme.
Do you have to do much travelling?
Travelling is entirely up to each volunteer's personal circumstances, you have to travel to your local Police Station in order to support the Scheme but travel further afield is allowed and all expenses are paid.