|A FRIEND TO SOMEONE IN PRISON
Most new volunteers are a little apprehensive before their first visit. This is quite natural and is in fact quite common when embarking on any new activity. However we would like to re-assure you on as many points as we can.
The actual process of simply entering a prison with all its locks, registering, searching and having to walk through the metal detector can be a little daunting the first time. However it is something that one quickly takes for granted. CSD staff are helpful at letting us know what procedures are necessary when entering a prison but it is very necessary for you to learn as soon as possible what you are expected to do. We always endeavour to arrange for an experienced visitor to take you in the first few times so that you can more easily get used to the procedures. You should go with other visitors as many times as you need before you feel comfortable going alone. We suggest at least 2 or 3 times, to different prisons each time and with a different person. In this way you will experience a variety and learn from others.
Another cause for apprehension may be on your ability to be a good prison visitor. Actually the aim is not to be a good prison visitor but rather a good friend. Very occasionally it does not work out as well as one would hope but 9 times out of 10 it is a lot easier than you would imagine. This is largely because being friends is a two way street and you’ll find that the prisoner is often far more keen that it should work than you. He looks forward to your visits so much, is welcoming and friendly that very soon you may well be enjoying your friendship with them more than with your acquaintances outside!
The Prisoners’ Friends’ Association (PFA) arranges training session where we all try to learn together. Usually we invite a speaker and have sessions given by senior members of the CSD, Ex-prisoners, Counsellors etc. These training sessions take place occasionally and are also an opportunity to meet other members. Applicants are also invited. All who are interested are welcome.
In these ways we hope that most fears of getting started will be smoothed away as quickly as possible. Some may be anxious about their own safety within a prison. The fact is that they are probably safer inside a prison than out. A visitor is accompanied at all times by an officer and procedures have been developed by the CSD to ensure the utmost safety for every visitor.
Should here be anything else at all that you may be worried, anxious or uncertain about we would urge you to be sure to get in touch with a member of the executive committee. We want to do everything that we possible can to help you in this valuable work.