Helping Here

So, at last you have received your security clearance, completed the induction process with our Volunteer Coordinator and are preparing for your first volunteering session at the prison. We guess you will have lots of questions buzzing around your head, and you may feel a little apprehensive about what lies in store. Don’t worry, we have all had some of those feelings and this page will tell you what to expect and help allay any fears. 

It is not always easy for a newcomer to distinguish prisoners from non-uniformed staff, but by being polite we make sure that we cause no offence and tend to bring out the best in everyone.

The following observations assume you are volunteering in either Male Education or Female Education.  Facilities may be a little different in other areas such as the Gymnasiums, Visits Halls and the Mother & Baby Unit.  And of course, those volunteering in the FOPP Tea-Bar are outside the secure parts of the prison anyway.


Those volunteering in the mornings need to be through security by 08:00 at the latest. You can expect to be out of the prison around mid-day.  Those volunteering in the afternoon need to be through security by 13:00. You should be out of the prison soon after 17:00.

You will be escorted all the way to your volunteering place by an officer or member of staff.  In the education departments you will usually wait in the staff room for sessions to begin, and there will be time to make a cup of tea or coffee before you start. 

In the staff room, there are disposable cups available for you to use.  There is usually pre-packed coffee and sugar on hand and if there is milk in the fridge the staff are usually happy for you to use it.  You can use your own tea/coffee etc. if you prefer.  Some of our volunteers prefer to make green tea, but you’ll need to take in your own tea-bags.

Some people worry about toilet facilities inside the prison, but there is no need because you can use the same toilets as the officers and staff.  These are separate from the prisoners’ toilets and offer the degree of privacy you would expect.  There are separate toilets for male and female staff on both the male and female sides of the prison.  In male education, the toilets are accessed through the staff room, but in female education they are accessed from the main corridor and you will need to ask an officer to unlock them for you.  Don’t forget there are also toilets near the FOPP Tea-Bar that you can use before or after your shift inside the prison.

Ideally, you will usually come in for your shift on a regular (probably weekly) basis.  Staff tend to rely on your help and plan accordingly, so if you know you are going to be unable to come in for your next shift it is really helpful if you can let the staff know this.  It’s a good idea to obtain the telephone extension number of the department and/or the email address of your supervisor in case you are unexpectedly unable to attend your normal shift.  Contact details for the various departments in which our volunteers operate can be found here.  Please always tell our Volunteer Coordinator if you miss a shift, so she can keep an accurate record of how many volunteer sessions FOPP have provided.

Not all alarms in the prison make a lot of noise!  The fire alarm uses flashing lights together with an audible warning in some areas.  Be guided by your supervising officer/staff member as to how to proceed.  If the fire is in another part of the prison, there may be no need to take any action at all. 

At strategic points around the prison are yellow emergency alarm buttons like this.   Photo of a yellow General Alarm button. These trigger a high priority alarm (for example, warning that a person is being attacked or threatened) that is completely silent, but which alerts officers throughout the prison over their radios.  Seemingly within seconds, officers will be on scene to take control.  Be careful not to press one of these buttons accidentally: as one of our volunteers found out, it is very embarrassing, if reassuringly effective!

Our Volunteer Coordinator is always happy to answer any questions and help deal with any difficulties.  You might find it useful to browse the Glossary in our Members Area for explanations of some of the terms used within the prison that might not be familiar to you.

Check out our final topic in this section…


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