[bactttoma] Volunteer work. Prison visiting.

  • From: steven taylor <steven_taylor10@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: bactttoma@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 2 May 2010 09:15:24 +1000

It is a strange topic I know but here is some general information for anyone 
who is interested.

Most Australian States have what is called a prison fellowship program.

This generally speaking requires you to join a fellowship organisation such as.

Catholic church, anglican church, salvation army, or something of this nature.

It should be noted that you don't have to attend outside church services or be 
religious or follow the religion, but they will tell you there are a few rules.

The golden rule is you do not ask prisoners in prison what they are there for 
and if they choose to tell you, you don't go around telling everyone else.

One thing you will need is car transport prisons are usually off the beaten 
track of public transport, to prevent prisoners from escape.

There is a screening process from the department of justice in most states as 

If you have certain criminal convictions of your own, you may not be allowed to 
visit certain prisons in some cases, none at all.

You must be over the age of 18 years of age to join a prison fellowship group.

So what happens at prison fellowship meetings.

First, the prisoners provided they behaved themselves can choose whether they 
attend or not.

Some meetings have a short religious service, and then there is time for 
general chat, and a cup of tea.

You will be told what you can bring or take to these meetings and the second 
golden rule is only take what you are permitted by the prison rules of the 
prison in other words, if a prisoner asks you for something, example a book, 
insure you are allowed by the authorities.

If you are financial enough, you can give prisoners money but do not give them 
cash at all, they have a system where it goes in to a prison account and they 
request how they spend it again according to prison regulations.

Also there is a regulated amount you can only give, and remember if you really 
want to do this you should consider if you are doing this for one prisoner, you 
may cause friction between this person and fellow prisoners, so please be 
really careful.

Now if you don't feel comfortable with visiting prisoners, you can nominate to 
write or phone.

The letters must comply with certain guide lines and they are quite strict 
about them so again please be careful.

The phone is similar in that the prisoner must request the phone number be 
added to their contacts.

Most phone calls are recorded, and you can refuse an individual call, terminate 
a call at any time and terminate contact permanently should you not like what 
you are hearing.

You are asked by the officers of the prison both over the phone and in writing 
if you give permission for a prisoner to have your phone number.

Tip, prison authorities don't like you the outsider giving prisoners your 
mobile phone number in fact are quite insistent, you give a landline number 

If you are a celebrant but you don't belong to a church group, you go through a 
2 week training course, 4 hours of training in total in Victoria, don't know 
how it works for other states.

Yes, I have visited prisoners, am doing so this week again in fact.

Again, you must comply with all rules and regulations, if you don't, they come 
down hard on you, take my word for it.

Things you are definitely not allowed to take.

Drugs or alcohol or cigarettes of any description.

Most prisons will not accept anything home made, so if you taking cakes, they 
have to come from a shop and have to have a receipt as well.

They are strict on this as well, rum balls are a no no.

If it is chips, the packet must be sealed and unopened and they have a machine 
which is smart enough to tell if you opened and resealed the bag again as well.

Warning.  Be prepared to be stripped and searched even if you are a regular 
prison visitor.

I have even had the dogs search me at prisons, it's scary, but has to be done.

There are also shoes regulations, thongs are out if you are visiting some 
prisons, but check with the prison you intend to visit on dress codes.

Be careful, prisoners will try asking for things they well and truly know they 
can't have and if this happens, you should report it immediately.

One thing prisoners can have is books.

Again, a few rules your prison officers will tell you about, but it's pretty 
liberal so books are a good thing to take.

If you are unfortunate enough to be blind in prison, only have ever seen one 
blind person in prison in Victoria, then you will be pleased to know braille is 
acceptable, in fact, I was told by a prison officer I don't even have to tell 
them that I am giving it to the prisoners, they can't read it, and after all, 
how is a blind person going to escape from maximum security without sighted 

Before anyone asks, there are genuine prisoners who do their time and never 
return, so it's not all bad.

Oh and just to correct this myth from the media.

Prisons in Australia are no holiday camps if you really think they are, try 
spending a week in one and tell me what you think after that.

Sure prisoners here are looked after if I compared looking after here to what 
goes on in a lot of countries, but things aren't a bed of feathers folks.

I have heard of places like dick smith donating televisions which are damaged 
but still work to prisoners, simply to write off the stock as a tax loss.

Makes sense they can claim this as a charitable donation and make money from 
paying less tax.

By the way, prison officers tell me whilst sighted assistance doesn't have to 
come inside a prison with me, it's a good idea  to have a sighted person with 
me at all times all the same.


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  • » [bactttoma] Volunteer work. Prison visiting. - steven taylor