4,000 BOP volunteers are committed to working within the Federal system.
Volunteers improve the social environment in a prison by providing religious, social, educational, recreational and other services that are an essential link between corrections and the community. I am pleased to contribute this overview of the many roles volunteers play in federal corrections.
In 1992, the BOP created the National Office of Citizen Participation to coordinate volunteer activities. The NOCP, in conjunction with the Bureau's chaplaincy and education departments, creates and maintains partnerships with local colleges, national service organizations, schools and community-based organizations. These contacts provide a means of attracting volunteers who offer a wide variety of services, skills and expertise to federal inmates.
Because corrections is one of the fastest growing sectors in government today, the public has an increased awareness of correctional programs. With this increased interest comes a unique opportunity to work with the public and private sectors to expand not only the number of volunteers in the Bureau--currently about 4,000--but also the areas in which they can help.
Many groups have been coming into our institutions for years, consistently providing quality service in cooperation with our staff. Alcoholics Anonymous, the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Islamic Society of North America and the American Cancer Association are just a few of our mainstays.
Among the volunteer programs that have had the most consistently positive impact on inmates and their families are Prisoner Visitation and Support, Prison Fellowship, the Aleph Institute and the National Marriage Encounter Prison Ministry Inc.
Prisoner Visitation and Support. Primarily a one-on-one service for inmates who ordinarily do not receive social visits, PVS, which is based on the Quaker philosophy, provides support to many of the most isolated prisoners.
Prison Fellowship. Founded by Charles W. Colson in the mid- 1970s, Prison Fellowship has ministered extensively throughout the Bureau. Beginning with study seminars and community building both within and outside institutions, it has expanded its ministry to embrace the needs of inmates' families, particularly through its Angel Tree project at Christmas and its monthly publication for inmates and their families, Inside Journal.
Aleph Institute. Aleph Institute, which ministers primarily to Jewish inmates, has been a stalwart in federal institutions. In addition to its work with inmates and their families through direct service, it also publishes a newsletter, The Liberator.
National Marriage Encounter Prison Ministry Inc. Since its inception in 1981 at the federal prison in Lexington, Ky., Marriage Encounter has given more than 1,000 inmates and their spouses in 21 institutions a positive basis on which to strengthen their marriage commitment. In federal prisons from coast to coast, at all security levels, Marriage Encounter exerts a supportive and challenging influence on inmates, their spouses and their children.
Volunteers are playing a crucial role at a pilot program at the BOP'S community corrections center in Cleveland. The program, known as the Comprehensive Sanctions Center, was created to help federal inmates and probationers make a successful transition back to the community.
The program features a volunteer mentoring component along with increased programming, strict reporting requirements and enhanced supervision. Volunteers from community-based organizations that provide services to inmates and ex-offenders serve as mentors to center residents. Offenders are matched with an appropriate mentor before release from the center, establishing a strong bond offenders can rely on when they return to the community.
The Bureau recognizes the value of staff serving as volunteers and encourages them to get involved in community volunteer efforts. Their participation promotes the Bureau's policy of being good neighbors and is an excellent means of improving communication between corrections and the community.
Many institutions have created formal partnerships with organizations in their communities. For example, the Partnership in Education program between the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, W.Va., and the Eastern Greenbrier Junior High School helps students with their classes and promotes career awareness among the students. Staff from the facility's education department work directly with the faculty at the junior high school in the four-year-old program.
Bureau staff are involved in a variety of more traditional volunteer activities. Last year, staff from the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Ariz., joined local residents and donated more than 280 hours of their time to help refurbish the homes of senior citizens. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew's devastation last September, staff from facilities throughout the Southeast helped Florida residents board up their homes and distributed excess clothing and food to local charities.
Inmates also participate in volunteer activities. Women inmates at the prison camp in Alderson formed a volunteer firefighters group that assists the local tri-state fire department. In Texas, inmates at FCI-La Tuna raise money to help defray the college tuition costs of local youths in need. Similar activities take place in institutions throughout the federal system.
Community Relations Boards--advisory community groups composed of local business and civic leaders and residents--are another area in which volunteers enhance BOP facilities. These boards often join with institutions in charitable endeavors that benefit both the community and the institution. For example, the board at FCI-Lexington, Ky., generously donates yam and other material to inmates who knit baby clothes and other items for a local charity.
The spirit of volunteerism resonates throughout the BOP's daily operations and is reflected in the near-universal agreement that our institutions function better because of volunteers. Volunteerism reinforces the notion that one individual caring for another always makes a difference. It promotes civic responsibility and encourages shared problem-solving. Citizen commitment to volunteerism is growing in the Bureau of Prisons--and I hope it will grow throughout the nation.
Kathleen M. Hawk is director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. For more information on the Bureau's volunteer programs, contact the Office of Republic Affairs at (202) 514-8585.
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|Title Annotation:||Bureau of Prisons|
|Author:||Hawk, Kathleen M.|
|Date:||Aug 1, 1993|
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