How can we make volunteering in prison a learning experience?
During the past 2 years, in less than ideal conditions (but then again, when is adult education ever operated in ideal conditions:) ), an interesting partnership has stated a very particular and quite unique work: how to structure, organize, support, and professionalize the support of volunteers coming into prisons.
Details about us you can find at Home (volpris.eu). The strong side of the partnership was actually involving organizations that have a saying on the topic, both at the national and European level: prisons, justice ministry, civil society actors that coordinate volunteers, volunteering federation, and training providers. Based on our experience and on the feedback received from so many correctional professionals, bringing in volunteers to support prison activities is a challenge, but a much-needed one.
First and foremost is a challenge to the prison itself, a signal for change, a constant reminder that it needs to open up towards the community as a learning place for all
And then it is a challenge to all the biases and prejudices we all have related to the correctional environment. For the volunteers, it is not an easy experience but it is an eye-opening one. In this respect, all of us that work in corrections should acknowledge and support in a structured way the coordination volunteers.
With this, I would open up the discussion to my colleagues on Volpris and in the adult educators' world at large: what is your opinion, what it takes to bring in volunteers into learning experiences that take place in challenging environments?