Esther's story - a visitors' centre and tea bar volunteer
I was a volunteer with Nepacs from July 2014 until December 2016 mainly at a visitors’ centre but I occasionally worked on the tea bar at HMP Durham as well. I knew I wanted to work in the criminal justice system, so being able to go into prison and gain an understanding of the routine and how everything worked was great experience.
Supporting the families in the visitors’ centre was also really great because talking to the families and hearing about their experiences of the criminal justice system taught me about the processes offenders go through before, during and after release. It highlighted other issues as well because many families had concerns about substance misuse, domestic violence, finding accommodation when they came out of prison and other issues in the wider community.
I now work for Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind on their Diversion and Resettlement Service which supports offenders with mental health issues in the community, through the court process and when they come out of prison. The aim is to improve mental health and reduce re-offending.
My experience with Nepacs was instrumental in getting this job. I had a criminology degree, which was a requirement as well. But it was the hands on experience that made me stand out from other candidates. My volunteering experience also meant that I was able to settle into the role more easily because I had already worked with offenders and their families and had gained a good general knowledge of the process of going through the criminal justice system.