Prisoners at Serco operated HMP Kilmarnock who volunteered to become Listeners with charity ‘The Samaritans’ are now receiving training to help other prisoners when they are feeling lonely, are in a low mood or just need to talk.
The Samaritans provide confidential emotional support to those who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, through listening to them non-judgmentally and in confidence. This support includes vulnerable groups and where possible, those who are held in custody.
For prisoners at HMP Kilmarnock this support takes the form of the Listeners scheme. This scheme provides direct emotional support to prisoners who feel the need to speak with a fellow inmate, at any time day or night. Any prisoner who wishes to speak to a Listener simply makes this request through a member of staff, who will then facilitate the ‘call’ with the Duty Listener.
The selected prisoners will train for several weeks covering eight modules ranging from potential suicide which is the “worst case scenario” to general health and wellbeing.
The Listeners are carefully chosen, having to meet a strict set of security criteria, with input as to their suitability from a range of Serco prison staff. Following this, they then have to pass the Samaritans’ selection process. Once identified as having the security clearance and aptitude to be a Listener, prisoners are taken through a rigorous training package by the Samaritans, with regular fortnightly support meetings thereafter to discuss, in confidence, some of the ‘calls’ to which the Listeners may have had to respond.
Hilary, of the Samaritans, said: “Our Listeners are very committed to the scheme and work hard to make sure it functions properly, and we are very proud of them. It is rewarding knowing that people we have trained are there for others when they need someone to talk to about their worries and problems, but may not feel able to do so with staff members or their friends. Thank you lads, keep up the good work.”