Frequently Asked Questions
The Indiana Department of Correction relies on volunteers to play a critical role in our mission. The services they contribute in our facilities throughout the state provide an invaluable opportunity for community engagement. Volunteers assist those incarcerated with gaining valuable knowledge, skills, and abilities to prepare them for a successful re-entry. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions from potential volunteers.
Q. Is volunteering in a correctional facility safe?
A. The safety of the community, our staff, the volunteers, and those that are incarcerated, is our number one concern. The feedback we receive from our volunteers is overwhelming positive, praising how respectful, appreciative, and welcoming everyone treats them. While there will always be an inherit risk when you enter a correctional facility, the Department installs policies and procedures to mitigate that risk. It is everyone's responsibility to follow those rules to ensure the safest and most rewarding experience possible for our volunteers.
Q. How can I help?
A. There are numerous opportunities to volunteer with the Indiana Department of Correction. Below is a list of common categories and programs available at facilities throughout the state. For more information on how you can help, other ways to get involved, or if you have an idea for a new program, contact a specific facility or you can contact our Community Engagement Office.
- Mentoring – Research has demonstrated that mentoring can positively affect social, behavioral, and academic outcomes. The development of a trusting relationship that provides consistent, non-judgmental support and guidance greatly assists the re-entry process. Volunteers may serve as a mentor in a one-on-one or group setting.
- Family and Parenting Education – Various programming exists throughout the state to enhance the family and parenting relationship both during incarceration and in preparation for release. The programs encourage offenders to develop and maintain stronger ties with their families, which has a positive impact on recidivism. Volunteers are needed to facilitate programming.
- Re-Entry Programming – Re-Entry planning begins as soon as an individual is incarcerated. Facilities provide programming to address a variety of challenges to avoid the cycle of recidivism. Volunteers assist by facilitating programming involving financial literacy, life skills, character building, employment searching, and community resources.
- Religious Programming – We have a religiously diverse population, and volunteers are vital in providing faith-based services. The Department utilizes volunteers in a number of ways including leading services, facilitating programming, guiding studies and mentoring.
- Educational Programming – 34% percent of the Department’s adult population is functionally illiterate. Increasing educational attainment while incarcerated holds the promise of improved employment opportunities at better wages to help end the repetitive cycle of incarceration. Volunteers are always needed to provide tutoring and educational assistance.
- Veterans Affairs – The Indiana Department of Correction has taken significant action to support our military veterans who are incarcerated. From Veteran-specific housing units to American Legion Posts, to mentoring; there are many ways volunteers can help the Department support our veterans.
- Substance Abuse – Volunteers can assist with self-help and supportive programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery. These are available in all IDOC Facilities.
- Clean Lifestyles is Freedom Forever (CLIFF) is a modified Therapeutic Community designed specifically for those whose lives were impaired by methamphetamine. The program is an intensive cognitive behavioral, evidenced-based best practice counseling. Volunteers are needed to provide mentoring to offenders and facilitate the classes.
- Purposeful Living Units Serve (PLUS) is a faith and character-based community within the facility. The emphasis of this voluntary initiative focuses on strengthening spiritual moral and character development as well as life-skills. Volunteers are needed to provide mentoring to offenders and facilitate the classes.
Q. What are the requirements to apply to become a volunteer?
A. You must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have the ability to handle volunteer responsibilities
- Be willing to undergo a criminal history check
- Attend an orientation and complete annual trainings
- Complete a volunteer application packet
- Submit to an initial and annual tuberculous screening
- Follow Department policies, procedures, rules & regulations
- Agree to work without compensation
- Be willing to volunteer in a challenging environment that is extremely rewarding
Q. What are the steps to apply?
A. Follow the steps below to apply.
- Contact the facility where you would like to volunteer or contact the Community Engagement Office
- Schedule a time to discuss how you would like to volunteer
- Complete the required forms and submit them to the Community Involvement Coordinator at the facility
- Attend New Volunteer Orientation and successfully complete all required training and paperwork
- Submit to a tuberculous screening prior to volunteering
- Coordinator your schedule with the Community Involvement Coordinator and begin volunteering!
Q. How do I decide which facility to volunteer at?
A. The best way to decide might be to determine which is closest to you. If you are going to be visiting the facility often, you'll want to make sure the commute is compatible with your schedule. The next consideration is determining how you would like to volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering with youth, there are 3 facilities to choose from. If you are interested in volunteering with military veterans, we have some facilities with specialized units for them. If you are interested in volunteering to help those being released soon, a level 1 facility might be the best fit for you. If you are interested in faith-based services, that can be done at any facility. Contact the Community Engagement Office or a specific facility and we will help you decide which facility is the best fit for you.
Q. Can I volunteer if I have a criminal history?
A. Individuals who are formally justice-involved are sometimes the best examples of success. Applicants with a criminal history are encouraged to apply and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Q. What is the normal time frame for a background checks to come back?
A. The timeframe for a background check to be completed can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on a number of factors including the size of the facility. Please be patient for your application to be processed and feel free to reach out to the Community Involvement Coordinator for an update on the progress.
Q. What is a typical volunteer schedule?
A. It will depend on the program or service you provide. Most volunteer programs occur during the evenings and weekends but some are available during the day. You will coordinate your schedule with the Community Involvement Coordinator at the facility where you volunteer. We work with our volunteers to make sure their service works best with their schedule and the schedule of the facility.
Q. Does the Department have any donation needs?
A. Absolutely! Simply contact the Community Involvement Coordinator at the specific facility where you would like to donate for more information about their facility needs or you can contact the Community Engagement Office for general inquiries.
Some examples of donations may include:
- Release clothing - for both our adults and juveniles who may not have access to civilian clothes upon their release
- Crafting supplies - many of our facilities make quilts, scarves, hats & gloves, and similar items
- Art or woodworking supplies - some of our facilities make everything from bird houses and dog houses to painted works of art
- Education materials - all of our facilities have a library so they welcome both educational and recreational reading materials, especially teaching a new language, skill, or hobby
- Religious materials - our population represent a number of different faiths and are often in need of various religious books and supplies
Q. What is the dress code policy? Can I shake their hands? Can volunteers bring in drinks/snacks?
A. These questions and questions like these will all be answered at New Volunteer Orientation.
Q. Do I have to be part of a group to be a volunteer?
A. No. Although we encourage our volunteers to participate with a group or with friends, you are more than welcome to volunteer as an individual.
Q. Are there internship opportunities available?
A. Yes! Our facilities are like small cities with staff employed in a variety of areas from case management, custody, medical, food services, substance abuse & mental health treatment, community services, and much more! We welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds to experience these fields inside a correctional facility. We encourage you to contact the specific facility that interests you for more information about internship opportunities.