From Touchstone Issue #8 See Full Issue

Prepare Your Volunteers for Success with Prison Orientations

Volunteers for your ministries share your heart and passion for the incarcerated. By preparing these volunteers, especially first-timers, with a basic orientation such as a prison tour or safety training, you can increase the likelihood of their long-term commitment and make their experience more rewarding for everyone involved.

In this article, we’ll talk about what you need to transform your volunteer program by adding on-site clarity, creating simple procedures to prepare volunteers, and adding a follow-up to the volunteer process.

Involve All Stakeholders

Your first step should be to identify everyone involved in the volunteer process, including local government and prison authorities. Ask for their input and help in identifying things volunteers need to know, like common “do’s and don’ts” of working in a prison.

Introduce volunteers to prison staff and create an open channel for information between volunteers and staff. This way, challenges can be shared and solutions worked toward together.

Ask your team leaders, such as board members, program directors and managers, to host the volunteers and lead orientation training sessions. You might also want to create a shadowing program for new volunteers to accompany current volunteers on their prison visits.

What You’ll Need

    • Human Resources to communicate with potential volunteers and prisons to arrange visits, as well as arrange transportation

Prepare Your Volunteers for Success

Send an invitation, either in the mail or via email, to your volunteers asking them to visit a prison and attend a training course.

Travel with the volunteers to the prisons. This will provide you with valuable moments to get to know them and get a glimpse of why they want to be a part of this ministry. It also provides you the chance to set their expectations and answer any preliminary questions they may have.

Before arriving at a prison, walk your volunteers through a detailed security vetting process. Once at the prison, show them how to enter, proceed through security screening, find their classrooms, restrooms, and any other important locations.

What You’ll Need

      • Invitations
      • Written copies of prison do’s and don’ts
      • Time invested to develop a role shadowing program, volunteer coordination, and prison visits
      • Prison access and space
      • Cost considerations include travel expenses and possible communication expenses

Follow Up

Some of the best learning experiences come in discussion after the fact. After a course, debrief with volunteers and course leaders. Discuss a volunteer’s visit with him or her after it has been completed.

What You’ll Need:

    • Time invested in a possible post-course survey, or the communication necessary to debrief

Who to Contact for More Information

Prison Fellowship Liberia has had great success with a prison orientation program for their volunteers, something they created in 2017. If you’d like advice or support to create or strengthen a prison orientation program, you can contact them or Prison Fellowship offices in Canada or Czech Republic.


Volunteer Training

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Volunteer Training

Our Most Valuable Resources | by Dorestela Medina

“ How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Romans 10:15) Volunteers are the most valuable human resource of PFI national ministries worldwide because they are the feet and hands of the organization to reach and support prisoners in their transformation and rehabilitation. Volunteers — both external volunteers and internal volunteers — […]

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Volunteer Training

Ground Rules: Common Prison Security Procedures and Policies

The following procedures and policies are common in most prisons. There may also be additional procedures you need to follow in a specific prison you enter, so check beforehand with the prison chaplain. Click below to download these Ground Rules. DOWNLOAD Working in the Prison Context All visitors are subject to a bag search and/or […]

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