Suggested Press Query: Does Your Local Prison Allow Volunteers?


Writing in the Nieman Watchdog, Dan Froomkin suggests that journalists should look into whether prisons in their locales allow volunteers. Pat Nolan, vice president of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowsship and a former federal prison inmate, said the policy can be a telling indicator of whether a warden has a lot to hide. “They will never say they don't allow volunteers, but just ask how many they have,” Nolan said. “Their reaction will tell you whether you're onto something or not.” The reason is simple: “When you have many volunteers coming into a prison, there's just no way you can keep a lid on things,” Nolan said.

“If there are 100 excuses why volunteers aren't there, that's not an accident,” he said. “I would say it merits looking deeper.” He continues, “There are really two philosophies in running prisons. Some wardens and officers feel that the sentence is the punishment, not the way they treat them, and that they should treat the inmates as human beings, and that they have a future, and that they need to be prepared to return to the community. These wardens take the word 'correction' seriously.” By contrast, “there is a whole other group that are basically bureaucrats,” Nolan said. “Take a DMV office, string barbed wire around it, and give the clerks guns.”

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