“Purely for You”: Inmates’ Perceptions of Prison Visitation by Volunteers in the Netherlands [2018]

Research suggests that prison visitation by volunteers may significantly reduce the risk of recidivism. Community volunteers offer sustained, prosocial support to inmates which may account for these beneficial effects. However, the question of how inmates themselves evaluate volunteer visitation has hardly been studied. This study explores how inmates of Dutch prisons who receive one-on-one volunteer visits experience and value these visits. To that end, semistructured interviews were conducted with 21 inmates across six penitentiaries. These show that the value of volunteer visitation for inmates has to be understood in terms of a human-to-human encounter. Visits by volunteers provide inmates with rare opportunities to have a confidential conversation, away from the harshness of the usual prison life. Furthermore, inmates perceive volunteer visitation as beneficial beyond the actual visits. Inmates draw hope, strength, or self-respect from the conversations; they see volunteers as role models and develop a more positive view of the future. Two potential obstacles to beneficial volunteer visitation were detected: lack of chemistry between volunteer and inmate and imposition of worldview beliefs by volunteers.

Carmen Schuhmann, Esther Kuis, Anne Goossensen
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 62, Issue 14, 2018