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Starting and maintaining your program.

Volunteers have been contributing to corrections operations in the United States for more than a century, devoting countless hours and resources to making corrections more effective. Today, as budget restraints force facilities to cut back on services, volunteer programs are becoming even more significant.

In addition to helping fill the gaps left by tight budgets, volunteers also can serve to increase the public's understanding of corrections issues. Because prisons and jails have historically been isolated from the rest of society, most people don't think about or understand the dynamics behind today's corrections issues. As more volunteers work in correctional facilities, our communities become more involved in and aware of the important public service performed by corrections workers and the needs of the profession.

However, as most volunteers and corrections workers know, volunteering in corrections isn't as simple as just showing up and lending a hand. There are many issues and obstacles that volunteers, paid staff and administrators need to address in order for volunteer programs to succeed.

The following guide is designed to help corrections professionals and volunteers develop volunteer programs that make a difference for offenders and for society.

Starting and Maintaining Your Program

1. Evaluate the need. After determining what tasks are not getting done or are overextending staff, decide whether these tasks could be handled effectively by volunteers.

2. Develop goals and job descriptions. Write up the goals of the volunteer program, as well as job descriptions for volunteers, so that administrators, staff and the volunteers themselves know what volunteer positions entail.

3. Involve staff. Be sure to include staff (especially staff who will work directly with volunteers) in all planning and implementation of volunteer programs. If their input is included, staff will have a greater desire for the program to succeed because they will share a sense of program ownership.

4. Actively recruit volunteers. There are many organizations you can contact to find volunteers. Churches, civic groups, retirement organizations, and colleges and universities are all good choices for volunteer recruitment.

5. Educate volunteers about inmates. Before inmate contact begins, caution volunteers on the pitfalls that await those who are not familiar with the inmate culture and who may be easy targets for manipulative inmates. This is necessary to protect volunteers from being used and to maintain the institution's security.

6. Explain security needs to volunteers. Instruct volunteers on the institution's security policies and procedures, and explain why they are needed. Otherwise, volunteers may resist institution security precautions simply because they don't understand their purpose.

7. Give volunteers the big picture. Teach volunteers about the institution's mission and services so they have a sense of how their contributions are a part of the facility's overall operation.

8. Evaluate program effectiveness. Once a volunteer program is in place, it is crucial to know how well it works. All volunteer activities must be carefully documented so program and individual volunteer effectiveness can be evaluated. Once the program has been established, it also should be formally evaluated by staff, inmates and volunteers. With this information, you can make sure the program's purpose is being served.

9. Recognize your volunteers' contributions. Volunteers, like all of us, need to be recognized for their work and accomplishments. A pat on the back can go a long way, particularly in a demanding field like corrections. Recognizing volunteers for their contributions can help keep them motivated and involved.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes excerpts from 'Helping Hands: A Handbook for Volunteers in Prisons and Jails'
Author:Ogburn, Kevin R.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Previous Article:Does corrections need volunteers?
Next Article:4,000 BOP volunteers are committed to working within the Federal system.

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