- Category: Volunteers
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Many Utahns — from Boy Scout troops to family groups — contact the Utah Department of Corrections to inquire about service project opportunities. Thanks for your compassion and generosity!
Listed below are current needs for those looking for a service project to benefit inmates. You also may contact Volunteer Coordinator Lt. Tolai Pei for information and guidance about a project or donation idea at 801-576-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fleece (for quilting projects)
Sheet music for women's voices
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Bedtime Stories: Once a month on a Sunday evening, female inmates gather in the visiting room at the Timpanogos Women's Correctional Facility, where volunteers set them up with storybooks and recorders. Some women — who may be mothers, grandmothers or other relatives — choose to sing songs rather than read. The women also may write a message. The recordings and messages are reviewed and then mailed to the inmates' children. The children get to hear the voices of their loved ones, while inmates get a chance to focus on and connect with their children. Children are able to play the recordings as often as they want in the comfort of the home where they may be living with relatives or foster parents. That is especially helpful when children live far away or are uncomfortable visiting the prison. Brooke Plowthow, then a freshman at Brigham Young University, came up with the idea for the program about a dozen years ago as a service project for her LDS Young Women's group. She sought support from United Way of Utah County and the Ashton Family Foundation, which provided a $1,000 seed grant to cover costs. Today, the program is still going strong.
Crochet program: The crochet program, led by volunteers, allows inmates to engage in community service projects by creating hats, gloves, scarves and blankets that are donated to those in need locally and in refugee camps around the world. Every Christmas, inmates make several hundred stockings that are donated to local hospital maternity wards as a gift to mothers and their newborns.
Family History Centers (genealogical research): The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened the first Family History Center at the Utah State Prison in the 1980s to engage inmates in genealogical data input and personal family history research. Inmates, overseen by volunteers, use computers that connect to LDS Church’s family-history research databases or dedicated, stand-alone servers. Today, there are four centers in different facilities at the Utah State Prison and one at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. In 2013, state inmates indexed more than 2 million records.
Female Offender Transition Initiative: This pilot program, launched in November 2014, pairs female offenders with volunteer mentors and is aimed at ensuring the women's success when they are paroled from prison. Mentors are assigned to female offenders who are within six months of paroling to help set up housing, jobs, education, social services, transportation, medical and, if needed, mental health services. They may continue to work with the offenders for up to a year. The goal of the program is to provide support that allows the women to restart their lives and not revert to behaviors that landed them in prison. The mentors help the offenders develop short- and long-term goals and serve as a "lifeline" that women can call upon if they are struggling.
Wasatch Music Education Program: Music programs have operated at the Utah State Prison since the 1960s, when The Wayside Choir — now known as the Wasatch Chapel Men's Chorus — was first organized at the Wasatch Chapel. The music education program, which offers beginning piano, guitar, violin and vocals, has gone through starts and stalls but has flourished since the mid-2000s thanks to our volunteers. A similar program is offered in the Timpanogos Women's Correctional Facility and at the Central Utah Correctional Facility.
YPREP: Prior to their release, female inmates may attend the "YPREP" (Your Parole Requires Extensive Preparation) course taught by a team of volunteers that includes representatives of other state agencies and private organizations. The program prepares female offenders to successfully transition back into society by addressing housing, employment, transportation, child care and health care needs. Organizations involved in the program include the Utah Department of Child and Family Services, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Workforce Services, United Way of Utah County and Volunteers of America.
- Category: Volunteers
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A variety of programs offered at the state's two prisons rely on volunteer help, including the following:
- Religious services
- Internships (cultural diversity, cultural awareness)
- Education (tutors)
- Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous
- YPREP (Your Parole Requires Extensive Preparation, class that prepare female offenders for release)
- Music education
- Transition Mentoring
- Craft projects
Dozens of groups volunteer at the prison, including the following:
• Alcoholics Anonymous, Utah Chapter
• Assembly of God
• True Vine Baptist
• Canines With A Cause
• The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
• Calvary Baptist Church
• Veteran Affairs Center
• United Way of Utah County
• Utah Valley University
Utahns interested in volunteering at the prisons must meet the following minimum requirements and submit this Volunteer Application:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Pass a background check
- Possess a valid state-issued form of ID
- Meet attendance/performance commitments
- Abide by the Volunteer Service Agreement, including a code of ethics
- Receive no compensation for services
- Complete Department-provided training, renewed annually
- Follow Department policies, procedures, rules & regulations
- Make a six-month to one-year commitment
For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Utah Department of Corrections, contact:
Lt. Tolai Pei: 801-576-7817
- Category: Volunteers
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Dancers at Fall Powwow at Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison, 2014.
Volunteers ensure the Department is able to meet the spiritual needs of inmates while maintaining a separation of church and state. There are more than two dozen religious affiliations claimed by inmates in state custody. To meet their spiritual needs, volunteers oversee a variety of activities, programs, scripture study and educational courses, prayer and worship services. Volunteers also provide religious-based addiction recovery groups, (LDS) Family Home Evening groups, (Native American) Sweat Lodge and Pipe ceremonies, and Sidda Yoga Meditation.
Chaplains, who are part-time employees of the Department, provide offenders with ecclesiastical counseling and non-denominational services. They assist both staff and offenders with crisis intervention and during personal and family trials. Chaplains are a resource for religious knowledge for staff, offenders and volunteers. They also maintain ongoing relationships with community religious leaders; have direct contact with offenders through consultations, programs and services; evaluate needs of offenders and decide the best sources available to meet those needs; answer questions regarding religious programs (services, symbols, reading material); and are a source for mediation (emergencies, deaths, fights, injuries) for staff and inmates.
Faiths and spiritual practices represented at the state prisons include:
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Inmate Debra Samples records a story for her grandson with the
help of volunteer Kristin Kmetzsch, December 2014.
The Utah Department of Corrections and the taxpayers it serves benefit daily from the tireless — and often thankless — contribution of volunteers, who play a critical role in providing services to inmates.
At any time, there are as many as 1,300 volunteers registered to work with offenders, both those incarcerated and those on probation or parole. These volunteers aid offenders in their efforts to change their lives and successfully rejoin our communities.
Volunteers are engaged in a variety of activities at the Utah State Prison and the Central Utah Correctional Facility, from religious services to genealogical work and transition mentoring. The programs volunteers are engaged in give inmates more opportunities for learning, positive social interaction and personal development.
The services volunteers provide as mentors, educators and cheerleaders give the women and men in prison the ability to see who they can be when they transition back into our communities. Volunteers help to instill hope and provide examples of what it means to be a good neighbor and a good citizen. We hope our volunteers find joy, pleasure and a sense of service in knowing they are making a difference in the future of Utah!