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Valuing volunteers in prison: the views of service users and ex-offenders

"Volunteers give their time freely to people in need across the country, and the same passion and commitment is present in our prisons. Volunteers enjoy their roles, prisons recognise their contribution, and above all people in our prisons value, admire and are inspired by them." - Anne Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Clinks

As part of the Valuing volunteering in the Criminal Justice System project, commissioned at the request of Andrew Selous MP, User Voice undertook a peer-led consultation to explore perceptions of volunteering in prison from the perspective of service users.

The consultation involved five focus groups across England, engaging a total of 33 current service users and six ex-service users. Focus groups were held with prisoners from two prisons, service users reporting to two Community Rehabilitation Companies, and ex-service users who have attempted both successfully and unsuccessfully to volunteer within prison.

The report shares their views on:

  • their experience of volunteers and volunteering, including service provision, benefits of non-prison staff, and benefits to volunteers
  • characteristics of volunteers including motivation and lived experience
  • delivering voluntary services in prison, including access to prison and reception from prison.

"Apart from the rewards of a long teaching career, volunteering in prison is probably the best thing I've ever done with my life". – Volunteer

"Volunteers have the ability to make a significant difference to prisoners, and staff."  - Prison governor

“They’re coming in because of you; it gives you a sense of value so you value yourself. They give up their time to come and see you. You admire what they do, and you in turn want to do something.” - Prisoner

“It has opened up opportunities for me. I have been offered a couple of jobs with different organisations where I did volunteer.” – Former prisoner

Download the report here

PUBLISHED: July 2016