Orientation for the prisons

Today was the action packed day for everything converging at once. Hundreds of deadlines all ending and intersecting at the same point in time and space. Nothing can prevent this from happening, it just happens from time to time. Today was one of those days…

The daily routine started off like any other Wednesday in mid semester: work, classes and whatever comes after that, usually homework for a couple of hours. This tipically sucks up about 18 to 20 hours of conscious daily living leaving only 4 to 7 hours for uninterrupted sleep. So the regular part of the day: classes, homework and work all played out as they usually do, the big event left was the orientation seminar planned by Corrections Canada. Something that every volunteer must participate in order to begin the volunteer experience in their various programs.

I was late getting there, as usual. Blame it on lack of knowledge of the road and layout of Abbotsford, having never gone there and it’s unorganized streets patterns and windy roads. However, I did find it, and only 20 min. late, in the end it was not a problem anyway.

The seminar mainly focused on the interaction of the volunteer and inmate. As one would expect, security was the focus on the dos and don’ts. I was relieved that the program officers went deeper into the realm of how to behave and function among the inmates. For women, how you dress and act was understandably important as close contact and reviling personal information of you personal identity. Thus the focus overall covers three main areas:

***Nothing in, Nothing out:*** seems simple, however it is a cardinal rule of any prison. Money, cigarettes and weapons are a no no! Jewelry and articles of clothing are not a good idea if they are easily detached from your person. Just forgetting you have something in your pockets could be detrimental.

***Comfort Zone:*** a simple rule that could save you a lot of problems down the road. If an inmate asked questions, favours and gives you information, you should notify the officers immediately. However, as a preventative rule, setting the boundaries with the inmates should prevent any problems. Touching is a big problem for some people. This would go on the side from the inmate’s point of view. Hugging and putting your hand on one’s shoulders may not be a good idea.

***Transparency*** similar to the comfort zone rule, but more to do with your actions around inmates in groups settings. Taking hugging for example, favouring one over the rest could lead to problems of favouritisms or excluding others from the main group. This would make most types of volunteering and therapeutic work redundant. You must maintain transparency at all times. Treating everyone, whether inmate or not, as the same, this constancy is very important.

The handbook, a lengthly outline of these three points and every other aspect of volunteering within the prison system. Seems like a dry read, however, I was quite impressed at how detailed and comprehensive it is. Volunteers even have the same insurance coverage as the officers do while on the premises.

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