If you’d like to work with inmates at a nearby prison, here are a few ideas:
Keep in mind that we all feel better by helping others. Try to identify something that will allow the prisoners to do something for someone else.
Focus on one small step at a time: What can you start with minimal or no funding? Often, your most valuable contribution is matching up a need with a resource. One woman persuaded an architect to design playground equipment for a local pre-school, coaxed a lumber company to donate supplies, and convinced the prison to allow inmates to build the equipment. Letters of thanks and photos from the children made everybody feel great.
See if there is an on-going community/prison alliance in your area. If not, place a notice in your local newspapers and churches to begin one. When you’re ready, contact someone in the prison for permission.
Projects might include translating books into braille, making or repairing toys, growing food for local food banks, or operating a recycling project within the prison. You could also set up classes, visit inmates, provide transportation or lodging for families who visit, or start a support system for inmates being released into the community.
These ideas come from an excellent brochure called, "I’d Like to Do Something to Help," from the Human Kindness Foundation, Rt. 1, Box 201-N, Durham, NC 27705.The Foundation also publishes a newsletter for inmates, and books on spiritual growth opportunities for those doing time.