Praise for Westbury prison work
Barnardo's volunteer Sophie Stanley is in the running for the Wiltshire Life Awards 2013 tonight, after being nominated in the Community Hero of the Year category.
Mrs Stanley helps children whose fathers are imprisoned at HMP Erlestoke, near Westbury, as well as working on re-establishing links between prisoners and their ex-partners.
She not only volunteers at the Barnardo’s visitor centre, offering guidance to families when they first arrive, but also works inside the prison, where she offers support to offenders.
The 51-year-old, who lives in East Knoyle with husband Oliver, will find out if she is the Community Hero of the Year at the awards ceremony at Marlborough Town Hall.
Mrs Stanley said: “I am thrilled to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award and it should be a really good evening. It’s rewarding work, as we are trying to help families who are coping with having someone in prison.
“We help them stay in touch and make sure the link remains intact, as some families don’t like bringing children [into the prison], as they feel it is not suitable.
“Families can also feel quite isolated and are often stigmatised for having someone in prison. We aim to make them feel at home in the visitors’ centre and make the day as happy and rewarding as possible.
“Offenders who enjoy positive contact with their families on the outside are much less likely to re-offend when released, but they have to be on their best behaviour to get the privileges.”
Mrs Stanley, who has four children, won the national Barnardo’s Marsh Trust Volunteer of the Year Award last year, which led to an invitation to one of the Queen’s garden parties at Bucking-ham Palace.
She added: “I never expected to end up working at Erlestoke, but, after doing a counselling course, I decided I wanted to work with children, which is how I got involved.
“I have been doing it for around three years now and I really enjoy trying to bring some normality to a situation that can be quite intimidating for some families.”
Mrs Stanley was nominated for Community Hero of the Year by Barnardo’s external communications manager Justin Guy.
He said: “Sophie has earned the respect of prisoners, staff, parents and grandparents, who all value her dedication and commitment.