Prison Ministry Does and Don’ts

 A. Rules are not the same inside a Prison as it is in outside society.

Giving a piece of gum or a ballpoint pen to another  person are normal gestures in outside society.

Orientation training secessions that teach the rules of the various institutions are normal in local, state and federal correction facilities. Some facilities do a better job than others. Some training is less formal and some do not offer any training. It is extremely important that prison ministry volunteers understand what they are allowed to do and allowed to do inside the walls. The continued status as a volunteer depends on you following the rules.

Following is a list of some “does and don’ts” for prison ministry volunteers. If you are new to Volunteering you need to familiarize yourself with them. If you have been volunteering for awhile than you may want to review them also.

While some of the rules may have been discontinued by some institutes, other institutes will have added new rules. Some institutes let seasoned volunteers get away with minor infractions, that are normally not allowed. This overlooking is based on trust developed and the good name of the group. Don’t abuse the trust.

The following list is not complete. It should be used with your institution’s own list of rules,  regulations and training for volunteers. If there is a disagreement in the rules here,the rules at your institution are correct. If by chance your institution does not offer such a list, you may find this list of great value.

Some facilities may have shorter lists, but based on the experience of many, this list is made up of the essentials.

Nothing In – Nothing Out

This is usually rule one. Do not bring any unauthorized material into or out of your institute. If in doubt, check with the Chaplin before attempting to go in. If you can not get approval in time, leave it out.

Some places have lockers where you can put some items, such as rain gear, or jackets. You can also put your wallets, purses, jewelry, cash, cell phone or pagers into the locker. If you decide to leave your possessions in your car, consider locking them in the trunk.

Do not bring in stamps, stationary or envelopes nor carry out a letter or note.

Christian Prison Volunteers are normally allowed to carry in their own Bible and written literature for the scheduled Bible or other study.

Soft cover Bibles and other religious items can be donated through the chaplain’s office. This will save you time at security.

Lock Your Car While on Government Property

Should an inmate escape, we don’t want to make the get away too easy.

There may be trustees who work outside the institution’ s walls and we would not want your car used as a drop and pick up point for some type of contraband while you are away.

Request a Copy of Your Institute’s Rules and Regulations for Volunteers. Commit it to memory.

This should set your mind at ease by answering some questions you had. It may also remind you of a forgotten item.

Always demonstrate Courtesy and Respect to Prison Officials and Inmates.

You are representing your church and the Lord Jesus. Jesus never treated any official or someone in need with contempt.

If There is Ever a Conflict with the Correction Officer (CO), Do Not Argue, But Do What You Have  Been Asked Immediately.

This is 100 % a must. Whether you think the CO’s actions are appropriate or not, be respectful and comply immediately. Remember you are a volunteer, assume the CO is right. You most likely will have an opportunity to ask that particular CO or the supervisor why something was done.

B. Do Not Get Involved in an Inmate’s Legal Problems

You can have compassion and be sympathetic to the thing that bother an inmate. We as Catholics should see the face of Jesus in the inmate’s face. The facility believes your are inside to provide spiritual comfort, guidance and training to them inmates. We are not inside to be legal Helpers. To do otherwise will jeopardize your ministry. During my first week as a volunteer I was told about an ordained minister who had help an inmate and was removed from that institution’s approved list. Your role allows you to stay focused on the main reasons you are there.

C. Do not Reinforce Negativity Towards the Management 

Saying negative things about the administration, COs, or the governmental entity will only reinforce the inmates beliefs and make it tougher on them.

We are again must protect our status as volunteers. We are called to reflect the life and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

 D. Dress Appropriately

After deciding what style, and color we should wear. Some institution request men wear black pant and women wear the female equivalent. In no case should we wear clothing that could be confused as inmate clothing. We have the issue of how a Catholic volunteer should dress for a prison visit.

Some institutes will not let you in if women have bare arms, or any cleavage.

 E.Always Bring a Government Issued ID

Unless you have something that has a picture that identifies you, you will not get in. A driver’s license or an ID issued by your state or provincial government will work unless you have been issued a special ID.