“Step Inside” is about recruiting volunteers to help out at HMP The Mount, (Bovingdon, Hertfordshire). There are a number of volunteer opportunities, but the pressing need is for help in the Visitors’ Centre, which is where prisoners’ friends and families gather while they wait for admission to the prison; and in the Visits Hall Play Area, which is inside the prison and where prisoners’ children are able to play under qualified supervision during a prison visit.
It really doesn’t matter if you haven’t been to a prison before and we look for certain key qualities which include: a positive, morale-boosting attitude; an ability to understand the problems facing prisoners and their families; maturity and a sound calm temperament; a non-judgemental approach; and sound listening and interpersonal skills.
Most applicants have no experience of what it’s like to be inside a prison and we do try to describe the environment as there is obviously a heavy focus on security.
We do not take volunteering lightly and there is a full vetting comprehensive training for the successful candidates.
There may be a few steps on the way, but it is very satisfying, fulfilling, and useful work.
One of our volunteers saw an advert in a local church and having recently retired were looking to do some voluntary work, so after ringing the prison, someone came and had a chat. The prison was near home, so they were pleased to sign up to help in the tea bar at the Visitors Centre. Working alongside other volunteers is a great part of it and they can work as many or as few afternoons as we wish. And as they said, “Satisfaction comes from the work, especially chatting with the wide variety of people that we meet”.
Our ability to operate the Tea bar and the Play Area is very dependent on volunteers and we are always looking for more!