penfriendsCongratulations to Gwyn Morgan (Jurisprudence, 1972), Founder and Director of Prisoners’ Penfriends, who was awarded an OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to the Rehabilitation of Prisoners.

Prisoners’ Penfriends is a charitable organisation that makes it possible for volunteer correspondents, in the community outside prison, to write to prisoners and receive letters in return – and to do so in safety. The charity’s volunteers and supporters include fellow-Somervillians.

Prisoners’ Penfriends became a registered charity in 2003. Its patrons are former Chief Inspector of Prisons Lord Ramsbotham, former Home Office Minister for prisons, Sir Peter Lloyd, the TV writer Peter Moffat and theatre director, Sir Nicholas Hytner. It has five trustees, just one administrator and 84 volunteers. The charity is recognised in 79 prisons; over 24,500 letters have been forwarded and 1,186 prisoners have used the service.

Letters are sent via Penfriends’ postbox address and are checked before forwarding. Volunteers never reveal their addresses or other personal details to their prisoner-penfriends. Volunteers use pen-names.

Prisoners’ Penfriends acts with the full co-operation and approval of Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service.

This is what some prisoners say about the scheme:

  • “Being a penfriend has meant so much to me because at times I was quite down – throughout my sentence – and my penfriend’s letters really cheered me up, knowing someone out there cared about me.”
  • “Loneliness and isolation is hard in a place like this. Knowing you are not on your own can make such a huge difference. Thankyou.”

Penfriend volunteers are recruited with care: they provide references, enter into undertakings as to security and behaviour, and receive a code of practice. They are provided with an advice service and with six-monthly newsletters. All volunteers attend a training session.

Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, of the University of Warwick, published her research into the work of Prisoners’ Penfriends in 2015. She found that being a penfriend brought benefits to both volunteer and prisoner penfriends, with prisoners reporting improvement in their well-being and more positive attitudes towards their future. You can read the report on the Prisoners’ Penfriends website: www.prisonerspenfriends.org

Anyone wishing to join the scheme’s band of volunteers should contact gwyn.morgan@prisonerspenfriends.org

If you wish to donate, please visit www.justgiving.com

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