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​Become a Volunteer

Volunteering in the Department of Corrections (DOC) provides a fulfilling opportunity for community citizens to change the lives of inmates in a positive manner.  In turn, the lives of community citizens are enriched as well. The DOC recognizes that volunteers provide a vital role in helping the department mission to enhance public safety by providing educational and treatment services to inmates. Listen to what inmates have said about those who volunteer in department facilities:

”Volunteers show us that we are not forgotten.” - James

“Volunteers help me grow in faith.” – Tina

“Volunteers tell us we are important and have purpose and are destined to become a ‘somebody.’” – Gaskin

“Volunteers have become our teachers, mentors, advisors, and most of all our friends.” – Denise

“Volunteers are a shining light in our darkness.” - John

Most of the time, by simply “showing up” volunteers demonstrate that someone in their community cares about their well-being. By modeling positive relationships to prison authorities and each other, volunteers model what it means to live in healthy relationships. Through faithful attendance, volunteers demonstrate what it means to be responsible and accountable community citizens. Finally, by giving of themselves, volunteers demonstrate that the best gift to give to others is their time.

Within DOC, volunteers serve in a number of areas that address inmate needs. These include:

  • Alcohol and Other Drugs (AA, NA)
  • Alternative to Violence Programs
  • Art, Sewing and Quilting Classes
  • Dog Training Programs
  • Hospice
  • Long-Term Offender Groups
  • Music Programs
  • Parenting
  • Reentry Classes
  • Religious Programs
  • Veterans Groups

For those interested in volunteering in prison, or looking for further information, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at the respective facility where you are interested in applying.

The PA DOC offers institutional volunteering opportunities in 24 locations across the state. If these locations are not local to you, please consider reaching out to your local county jail​.

How to Get Started Volunteering

  1. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator at the facility you wish to volunteer (Word) and ask how you could be most helpful in addressing inmate needs.
  2. Read the Security Orientation for Non-Department Employees (pdf)
  3. Submit the following documents to the Volunteer Coordinator:
  4. Each Volunteer Application will be processed and a background check completed.  The Volunteer Coordinator will contact you once this process is complete.
  5. If approved as a volunteer, you will:
    • Be required to submit documentation that you have a current, valid Mantoux test (Tuberculin Skin Test) result at the time you begin to volunteer (this may be done for free at any correctional facility, with arrangements made through the Volunteer Coordinator).
    • Be asked to attend a Security Orientation to become more familiar with Department rules, operations, and expectations of your role and where you will have the opportunity to ask questions.
    • Have a Photo ID taken and be enrolled in the Biometrics system

Volunteer Policy

Volunteer Policy (pdf)

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I volunteer at multiple facilities?

Yes. If an approved volunteer at one facility wishes to volunteer in more than one facility, he/she must first secure an invitation from each additional facility’s Volunteer Coordinator to serve. The volunteer will provide a copy of his/her completed Emergency Notification and Security Consent Form to the Volunteer Coordinator at each new facility in which he/she will volunteer.

Why should I volunteer in corrections?

Most inmates know their poor choices have resulted in their being incarcerated. But they are also under the impression that their families and the community have written them off as being “failures and losers.” By their presence, community volunteers provide invaluable hope to inmates who must come to terms with their incarceration and try to piece their lives back together again. In many cases, volunteers discover that they receive so much more than they give when they offer their services relating to inmates.

Why do volunteers have to receive so much training and submit so much paperwork?

The Department wants to ensure the safety of all those who are in its facilities, including inmates, staff, visitors and volunteers.  Toward that end, the Department wants all volunteers to be prepared for situations they might encounter in case of an emergency.  Additionally, like most governmental agencies, documentation is the means by which the Department can demonstrate volunteers have been thoroughly screened and trained before they begin their service.

What makes a volunteer in a correctional facility successful?

A successful volunteer is one who readily asks questions to enhance their understanding and appreciation of how the Department operates and cares for the needs of so many inmates.  A successful volunteer is willing to learn from those who have preceded the volunteer, who is faithful when scheduled, never forgets his/her surroundings and offers helpful feedback to the institution regarding their volunteer experience.

Can I be suspended or terminated from volunteering?

Volunteers can be suspended or terminated from service for rule violations, as violating rules of the Department are viewed as a critical security breach.  For this reason, it is critical that volunteers: adhere to all Department rules, never assume that rules were intended for others and not themselves, and always ask for permission first for and receive approval to do anything or bring anything into the prison.

Questions? Contact:

Jennifer Digby
Statewide Volunteer Coordinator
717.728.0392 |