Before leaving this section on Friendship it is important to realise how essential it is to respect the confidentiality of what has been discussed in your visit. The prisoner really needs to know that he can trust you completely, tell you anything without it being passed on to other prisoners, the staff or to anyone outside the Prisoners’ Friends’ Association. You are not required to divulge the contents of your conversation to anyone. Not even to the Superintendent of the Institution. (However there may well be subjects that it would be helpful to discuss with the Superintendent and if so it is advisable to get the prisoners’ permission first. This will be dealt with under the section “Relationship with the CSD.’)
“Our strength has always been in being non-aligned to authority both inside and outside the prison. We are trusted by prisoners knowing that our conversations are confidential and that the opinions that we may have of those whom we visit are not divulged” (NAPV)
Who can you confide in??
You yourself may also need someone to talk to. Some of the things encountered in prison work are hard to bear alone. After all, you are human too! We would therefore encourage you to keep in close contact with members of the executive committee. They are all experienced prison visitors and often two heads are better than one. You may need help, suggestions or an objective view on how best to proceed with a prisoner’s particular problem. We would urge you to keep in close touch, to share and discuss within the organisation as much as you like but not outside the organisation at all.
Finally – please do not let your prisoner friend down!
Small things mean so much in prison. Time is often counted off in hours. A person may count the days until your next visit and look forward to it with great anticipation. The disappointment if you do not come can be devastating. Please do not let them down. If you promise anything, anything at all please be sure to keep your promise. They need to know that they can rely on you. It is therefore better not to promise anything unless you are 100% sure that you can in fact carry out your promise. The promise given to cheer a person up one day is worse than useless if broken the next. It is better to give no promise at all. But do try and be regular and trustworthy in your visits and letter-writing and in carrying out whatever you have agreed to do for the prisoner.