Monday, August 8, 2016

218. Prisons

I started on an important project that has to do with something near and dear to my heart: prisons. I went to an orientation session for Amicus One on One. It’s a program that pairs volunteers with incarcerated individuals, called “friends”, and they meet at least once a month and just develop a friendship.

Someone spoke about it after a Mass a few weeks ago. I spoke with the gentleman and got a brochure. I emailed the volunteer coordinator a few weeks later. I filled out an application and then we landed on tonight. It was supposed to be a three-hour long session, but we got it done in half the time. (There was supposed to be a testimonial from a friend, but he didn’t show up.)

The orientation touched on proper boundaries, the process, what it’s like being a friend, and the next steps. It was pretty straightforward. You’re there to be a friend with the person. Don’t cross any boundaries, just listen.

One thing I did like was that they emphasized that the friends want to be there. They want to have someone to talk to. I’m a little nervous, but I’m anxious to see how I can grow out of this as well.

*Sidenote on volunteer orientations. There were five people in our group overall. Two were middle-aged dudes and one girl who looked to be about my age. Then there was a girl who came in wearing her hair in a ponytail straight up and had a giant green and pink covered hoodie on. As soon as she walked in the room, she went straight for the orientation leader’s seven-month old. (She couldn’t find a sitter for her son.) It was an oddly in your face moment for someone you had never met. She also kept interrupting the presentation with unnecessary comments. I thought she may have just been eccentric, but the she admitted she was 19. (When the materials clearly stated that you needed to be 21.) It’s probably good that the employees didn’t call her out on it or ask her to leave. It was just the first time I’ve really noticed that, yes, 19-year olds are much different than twenty-somethings and above.

The next step in my orientation is an interview with a staff member. It’s pretty basic questions about why you want to do this. Then I’ll have to fill out an application with the Department of Corrections and then set up a time to visit the facility. So, it’ll still be a little bit.

I want to do this because prisons are basically the least-loved part of our society. I’m sure there are some bad people in there, but I’m also certain that there are good people who could use a helping hand.

There are so many causes that are easy to support: vets, pets, schools. However, it’s hard to support people in prisons. It’s hard to reach out to someone who’s committed a felony. It’s hard to get out of your house and actually make a connection with someone.

I’m excited.

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