Help create life past prison
4:00pm Saturday 17th August 2013 in Latest News
MORE people are being sought to help with the rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders after the success of using volunteer helpers at Erlestoke Prison.
Since the visitor centre opened in the gate lodge at the prison two years ago, volunteers have been on hand to meet and greet families visiting inmates.
The prison wants to extend the use of volunteers to use their experience of the outside world to give prisoners a different perspective on life and prepare them for release.
Volunteer co-ordinator Alan Jones said: “We would like more people to get involved with the community at Erlestoke Prison, and not just individuals.
“We are asking local companies who are able to offer training and employment opportunities to get involved, so prisoners can put together a CV and get a work ethic.”
Volunteers already work with families who have often travelled long distances to visit their relatives in prison.
Helen Hall, who lives a five-minute walk away from the prison, has been volunteering at the visitor centre for two years.
She said: “When they get here they are often terrified. We not only offer them tea and coffee but help put their minds at rest about what they are going to be going through.
“They see us taking the mickey out of each other and by the end of it they are laughing with us.”
Frank Smith was formerly a tutor in video production at the prison and has maintained his links by volunteering to mentor those approaching release.
He said: “A lot of them are good lads who are here because of the circumstances they have found themselves.
“An offence is what they have done, not what they are.”
Alison Minch, the prison’s head of offender management, said the use of volunteers would complement rather than replace paid prison officers.
For more information on volunteering at the prison, contact Alan Jones or Keith Conway on (01380) 814270. The Friends of Erlestoke Prison is also looking for volunteers to ferry visitors to and from nearby railway stations. Call Frank Smith on 07973 228363.