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Valuing Volunteering in the Criminal Justice System

This webpage is a live resource, keeping you updated about the work Clinks is doing on the Valuing Volunteering project. You can read an introductory blog post outlining the project here, and view the launch press release here. New information will be added as it becomes available.

Last update: 10th May 2016

Do you know about volunteering in prison?

We are now writing up our findings for this project, which will be launched at an event in early July 2016. In carrying out our research, we have talked to and visited volunteering projects in a range of prisons. The people who've offered their perspectives range from Independent Monitoring Board members, to prison chaplains, to volunteer mentors, to prison governors, and many other professionals and volunteers besides. We have commissioned case studies from 13 organisations about what their volunteers are doing. These will be featured in our report.

Our online survey was open between 6th and 31st January, and 827 individuals completed it. These people are volunteers themselves, as well as the voluntary sector and prison staff who work with them. 400 people said that they were willing to be contacted for a short phone conversation to follow up on their answers; this is many more than we anticipated, and we regret that we will be unable to do this in all cases. We will be contacting some selected individuals in March 2016, so this is when to expect a call if you did indicate you were willing to be contacted!

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Ben Jarman by emailing

Context of the project

The Criminal Justice System has long offered numerous opportunities for civic engagement by volunteers, who fulfil a variety of roles. Members of the community coming into prisons, whether in long-standing ‘official’ schemes such as Prison Visiting and the Independent Monitoring Boards, or in programmes run by voluntary sector organisations, play a key role in securing the visibility of a closed system to the outside world. They also send a powerful message to people in custody: that their efforts to build a more positive identity and desist from crime are supported by the community outside prison, which stands ready to welcome them back.

Volunteering (especially by ex-offenders) can also support and complement the delivery of safe and decent prisons, by offering opportunities for trusting, supportive relationships and helping people in custody to develop pro-social identities. Clinks therefore believes that volunteering should be supported by adequate resources for training and managing volunteers, and that prisons should make efforts to remove unnecessary barriers to volunteering.

About the project

This project, funded by the Ministry of Justice, commenced at the end of September 2015 and will deliver the following outputs in 2016:

  1. A publication on the state of volunteering in a range of prisons
  2. Case studies of good volunteering practice in projects around the country
  3. Research into the views of service users about prison volunteering
  4. An event to report the findings of the project

We are working with the following enquiry questions:

  • What are the benefits of volunteering in prisons?
  • Where are there current examples of good practice, and where are there gaps?
  • What are the key supports and barriers to effective volunteer involvement in prisons?
  • What specific actions by prisons and/or voluntary sector organisations would support the development of more effective volunteering?