A few months ago I wrote about how I was looking into becoming a prison visitor, as a way of developing my listening skills and sympathy, while getting involved in a community outside my own.
After a number of emails and phone calls to find a prison nearby that has an Official Prison Visitor (OPV) scheme already running, I was invited to an interview at a prison. I was rather nervous for two reasons. Firstly, I haven?t been to an interview for about 12 years ? the last one was for the last proper job I had, before I set up Appletree ten years ago; and even back then I wasn?t very good at interviews. Secondly, I?ve never been inside a prison before! I felt quite safe because of all the gates and locks and keys; the barbed wire on the tops of the walls and the not knowing what was round the next corner of the corridor was just a bit unnerving.
My interview was with the prison Governor and the Chaplain. They asked me questions about why I wanted to become an OPV and I decided that honesty was the best option. I explained how everyone at Appletree is being encouraged to give some of their time this year to a local charity or project that pushes them outside their comfort zone. I told them that I might not be the most qualified person to speak to prisons and that I was prepared to give it a go, to help a community that needs volunteer. I also told them that I?d like to blog about my experiences.
I must have said the right things, because I?ve been invited to join their OPV scheme. The next stage is to go through their security checks and training. Once that?s done, I?ll be visiting the prison every two weeks to meet with prisoners who have requested a visitor. While I?m not allowed to tell you anything about who these people are, I?ll certainly tell you how it?s going and what I?m learning from it.
If you?d like to push yourself and do something for a local community, becoming an OPV might be for you. If you?re interested let me know and I can put you in touch with people to get the ball rolling.