Helping at prison

RESETTLEMENT is key to offender management, supporting a smooth transition between custody and the community and reducing the likelihood of re-offending.

This month the Volunteer Centre Fenland has new opportunities for those interested in this work to team with HMP Whitemoor at March, SOVA and a local mediation service used to help with community disputes.

At HMP Whitemoor, helping prisoners maintain family ties has a proven track record of reducing re-offending rate and the prison is looking for volunteers for their visitors’ centre and the visit room canteen, where drinks, sandwiches and snacks are served.

Volunteers are also needed in the creche. Prisoners’ families are unrecognised victims of crime, many travelling long distances to make their visits, often with children. They appreciate a warm welcome, refreshments and access to a crèche.

Also, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) needs new volunteers to join an existing team. An IMB is required to ensure that proper standards of care and decency are maintained within a prison. Volunteers need good people skills, to be good listeners and be non-judgemental.

Volunteers are required for four days a month, talking to prisoners and staff, monitor the prison and attend a monthly board meeting. Training and expenses will be reimbursed.

SOVA - a charity running projects around youth justice and offender rehabilitation - is recruiting volunteer mentors to motivate, inspire, challenge and help those leaving custody make the most of their lives and become healthy productive members of our community. The mentor supports the client by engaging in constructive activities with the aim of improving employment prospects and tackling barriers to employment, helping the individual begin long-term employment, education or training.

A further project offers support for short sentenced prisoners leaving HMP Peterborough to help them break the cycle of re-offending. Cambridge Mediation Service:

We can choose our friends but not our neighbours yet it is with neighbours that we build our local communities. From time to time everyone may have issues with their neighbours for many reasons. In the heat of the moment neighbours can get angry or frustrated, tempers flare, talking stops and the issue develops into a dispute. In most cases neighbours simply don’t realise the effects their life styles are having on others.

Community mediation is a way to bring people together, restore respectful communication and turn a dispute into a successful search for a positive solution.

Fenland volunteers are being sought to train as mediators and give a few evenings a month, about 75 hours a year, to practice within the community in disputes between neighbours. Training is accredited by the National Open College Network. Mediation is a confidential, non-judgemental, voluntary process and free at the point of access.

• Volunteer Centre Fenland is based at the Rosmini Centre, 69a Queens Road, Wisbech. There is a a drop-in on a Monday and Tuesday from 11am to noon.

Telephone 01945-582192 or email to find out about these or any other opportunities on offer. Organisations can also get in contact with their volunteer opportunities.