Prisoners and prison life have become a popular form of entertainment in recent years thanks to reality TV, true crime documentary series and scripted television shows.But even though you may have watched every episode of MSNBC lock up, That doesn’t mean you understand what prison life really is, what really puts so many people in prison, and how prisons can both hurt and help prisoners.
Like anything else in life – whether in a business, home, school, church, hospital, prison, or anywhere else you can think of – there are successes and failures for those who work and volunteer within the walls Don’t.
As far as prisons and inmates are concerned, those who work in a correctional setting are probably more important than most other places because what they do every day affects them in ways they don’t know.
While a career in corrections may not be a goal for most, making a difference in the world is something many strive to achieve. Which leads to the topic of this blog post: Can you volunteer in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Can you volunteer in a federal prison?
- Can you volunteer in a state prison?
- Do Volunteers Help Inmates Rehabilitate?
- What are the benefits of volunteering in prison?
- How to Volunteer in Prison
Can you volunteer in a federal prison?
The federal prison system offers many volunteer opportunities. Many states have federal prisons that need volunteers to help inmates readjust to life outside the prison walls and help them find work.
Volunteers in the BOP system are important because they can serve as mentors to inmates, helping to teach them the different skills they need to be successful. There are many skill areas in need of volunteers including academics, health, mental health, leisure, character and everyday life.
The types of programs in federal prisons that require volunteers include:
- Vocational Training
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- leisure time activities
- spiritual counseling
- religious service
- Marriage and Family Problems
- Prepare/attend mock job fairs
Can you volunteer in a state prison?
In most states, the Department of Corrections has volunteer programs. As in federal prisons, state facilities have opportunities in education, job placement, mental health, drug treatment and family issues.
Usually, you can choose to volunteer at one facility or multiple facilities, if you wish. But before stepping foot on the prison grounds, you first have to be trained to keep yourself safe as well as your prisoners and staff.
Don’t let this scare you! Prisoners treat volunteers better than anyone in the prison, and it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. Training is crucial because you need to know what to expect when working with prisoners and you need to be prepared for emergencies.
You’ll also find yourself filling out tons of paperwork, as all volunteers are thoroughly screened before being allowed inside the prison walls.
Do Volunteers Help Inmates Rehabilitate?
Like I mentioned before, prison staff and volunteers can make an impact in ways they never thought possible. Most people who get locked up know they made bad choices, but once they’re in jail, it feels like everyone has forgotten about them.
When volunteers walk into the prison, it gives hope to the inmates, who are grateful for helping to get their lives back on track. You can make such a difference in a prisoner’s life and help them realize they’re not a loser.
Prisoners know they are doing something wrong, but when volunteers come in to help them cope with life, make better decisions, manage their impulses and anger, and develop life skills, it makes all the difference.
Prisoners are not bad people. They often have mental health issues and childhood issues, and the key to their recovery is education and example, not punishment.
What are the benefits of volunteering in prison?
Many people who volunteer in prisons will tell you that it benefits them as much as it helps the inmates – if not more. You realize that prisoners are not what you see them on TV or in the movies – they are people who should not be ignored or forgotten.
The “out of sight, out of mind” approach doesn’t work, and it’s creating serious problems in our nation’s criminal justice and prison systems. How we approach this as a society is extremely important.
Emma Arbogast, A Volunteer at an Oregon State Prisonsaid, “When children are abused and neglected, we care. We feel bad. We want to help them. We send social workers. We pass laws to protect them. We create nonprofits and work groups. But, When those same kids grow up and act on their pain, their confusion, their lack of role models, their parenting, we lock them up and forget about them. We shame them, we judge them, we punish them. We remove them from Take their children, their families, anything that helps them maintain their dignity or their humanity.”
When you show up in prison to volunteer, you are telling prisoners that people outside the prison walls care about them. When you shape positive behaviors and relationships, it can have a big impact on your community.
Showing prisoners what it means to be a responsible and accountable citizen, and taking the time to help, is one of the best things you can do.
How to Volunteer in Prison
Most prisons have a volunteer coordinator who you can contact for information about the volunteer process and opportunities available. They will have paperwork for you to complete, including a volunteer application.
The app asks you questions about what fields you are interested in, whether you have a criminal record, or if you know someone who is currently incarcerated.
The best thing to do is to contact the agency you want to volunteer with and they will point you in the right direction to start the process.
Volunteers play a huge role in prisons, helping prisoners know they have not been forgotten. I cannot stress enough how important it is for prisoners to have outsiders in who are willing to help.
Have you ever volunteered in a prison? Let us know in the comments below.