Hi again Emily, @Mer_M
Would love to share more thoughts with you on the subject!
First, it’s quite a calling to want to go into prisons. The first 5 times you go inside the walls it is quite unnerving. What you see on TV is true to form, metal detectors, metal doors, cement walls, jump suits, tattoos, locking eyes, large prison guards, etc. If you’re ready for all that then keep reading lol!
A jail is different than a prison. Jail is where inmates are held before and during their court hearing. If guilty they’re assign to a prison that specializes in the crime they committed. The prison I go to specializes predominantly in gang members, sex offenders and white collar crimes. An odd mix I know but the Dept. of Corrections is impressive and I’m confident has good reason to mix these unlikely groups. Jails on occasion act as prisons. The jail I teach in is known for being impermeable. Paraphernalia does not get in so high profile prisoners are housed in the “Supermax” section. Guards don’t even like to be around them. I don’t know of any volunteer teachers that see these people, only clergy so don’t be concerned with that. Inmates either voluntarily come to your class or they are selected by the Chaplain. You would not be teaching men, women only. In-prison female teachers are less common than men so this may be good news for your quest!
Prisons and jails have predetermined time slots for volunteers. Christian teachers are in competition with other religious and secular teachers including general education courses. (Side note: the DOJ by law allows “Wickens” to teach, yes, Satan worshipping. So sad.) You’ll need to get inside by joining a group already inside or communicating directly with the prison/jail Chaplain for any current opportunities. I went directly to Prison Fellowship Ministries and literally pestered them until I got in. The have search seminars for volunteers, go online and find them. I would also find out who the Chaplain is and contact them, share your heart and goals and ask how you might get involved. Go through your church, online, friends, etc. until you get “in”.
Note too that you can serve a very important role by helping inmates that are just released back into society. Many times they are so frightened, wanting to find a church they will accept them, needing to be taught how to use a cell phone, where to buy one, etc. They’re particularly afraid of meeting up with the evil people from their past life. A simple conversation with a Christian brother or sister can literally keep them from returning to prison, often within a year. I don’t know much about post-prison ministries unfortunately, but it is a wonderful calling.
That’s a lot to digest so I’ll stop there! Looking forward to your questions and thoughts.