|PRACTICAL TIPS AND HELPFUL HINTS
With regards to the rule “nothing
in – nothing out”, it is essential that the CSD should
be able to trust us completely. Please be meticulous
in keeping this rule.
It is also important to make sure
that one does not inadvertently break this rule by leaving
anything behind after a visit. It is advisable to have
a look around before leaving, to check, or by the same
token to take out anything by mistake that does not
belong to you.
Place – Length – And Frequency
The visit takes place in the Legal
Visit Room and is described as an ‘open visit’. This
differs from a ‘closed visit’ accorded to most family
members or personal friends. Each visit would normally
last about 40 minutes or so. We would suggest that the
ideal frequency for visits would be every two weeks.
The minimum that we feel is acceptable is once a month
plus one letter a month. But please do not be put off
by this. If you are unable to visit once a month then
another member can substitute in your place and both
can visit the same prisoner; you can go alternate times
and cover for each other in case of sickness or leave.
The First Visit
You are not necessarily given any
information about the prisoner before you visit him.
This can be an advantage and gives you the opportunity
to build the relationship ‘from the ground up’.
Sometimes he has no idea who you
are or why you have come, and may even have a hostile,
suspicious, hard attitude in the very beginning. This
will usually very rapidly dissolve once you explained
a little bit about the PFA and what we do, and will
help him to relax and realise that you pose no threat
of any kind.
Once you have briefly introduced
yourself and the PFA, you can then explain that he is
in no way obliged to be visited and that he does have
a choice. Furthermore, if he would prefer someone of
a different nationality or religion etc., it could probably
be arranged. Usually he will be delighted at the prospect
of being visited at all, but occasionally say that it
is not necessary. If he does not want visits, please
let the PFA office know for our records. If he does
want visits then I would proceed to ask a few basic
questions which I would note down such as:
- The date he came in to prison
- His EDD (estimated day of release),
though if he is a ‘Lifer’ he may not have one.
- His birthday: (so that you can
make a note in your diary to send a card).
- You need to know his name and
number: (His number needs to be on everything you
bring in or send in to him).
- I usually suggest that he calls
me by my Christian name and I ask him what he would
like me to call him.
Although it is not always easy, I think that one of
the first things to aim at is to try and help your
new friend to relax. This is very difficult to do
if you yourself are very tense, so it helps to consciously
make yourself relax. Take a deep breath if necessary,
relax all the tense muscles, smile, give the impression
of being very relaxed and bear in mind the importance
of putting the other person at ease.
- Shaking Hands
We would suggest that you shake hands at the beginning
and end of each visit. I know that this is not always
customary in the ‘outside world’ but the prisoner
is rarely touched by anyone and everyone needs to
be touched. It is a sign of respect and friendship:
polite and friendly. It is one of those little things
that contributed to one prisoner’s surprised remark
“You don’t treat us as criminals, you treat us as
I think it is important to give each prisoner your
full and undivided attention for the whole period
of the visit. This will make it a valuable time for
you both. It is a very precious time and will be less
than the best if you are thinking about something
else. It is good if you can avoid looking at your
watch and other indications that you are not listening.