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Valuing volunteers in prison: a review of volunteer involvement in prisons

“Volunteers have an enormous impact on the lives and rehabilitation chances of offenders and the impressive work of volunteers will form an important part of our programme to reform prisons...the report helps to bring down many of the barriers that often prevent the voluntary sector from engaging with offenders, and, I think, encourages dialogue between all areas of the voluntary sector and the Criminal Justice Sector.” - Andrew Selous MP

This report, commissioned at the request of Andrew Selous MP, explores how we can increase the amount and scope of prison volunteering across England and Wales.

One of NOMS key priorities is supporting the use of volunteers in prisons. Clinks, NOMS, voluntary sector organisations and prisons have all been keen to identify good practice that can be used more widely to maximise the impact of volunteering and minimise any barriers that limit its use. This publication is intended to inform individuals and organisations involved with, or interested in, enhancing volunteering in prisons.

It explores four connected 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? And what actions would support the development of more effective volunteering?


The report finds:

  • Prison volunteering has clear benefits for stakeholders.
  • Several factors support successful volunteering including clear strategic oversight at governor level; robust recruitment procedures; support with security vetting; and good management and supervision.
  • Models of volunteering vary, with some prisons having a clear strategy. However, most prisons we visited did not have a whole-organisation approach to volunteer involvement.
  • Barriers to successful volunteering include delays to recruitment, often associated with security vetting and training; a large time commitment often during office hours; and lack of support from prison staff.


The report makes seven recommendations including:

  • clear roles should be identified for volunteers, and their work should be strategically integrated
  • prisons and their partners should proactively recruit volunteers from as diverse a base as possible
  • volunteering should receive a consistent level of coordination and support.

Download the report here

PUBLISHED: July 2016