Interested in becoming an OPV?

What is it like to be an OPV?

Official Prison Visitors (OPVs) are drawn from many different walks of life and are men and women from a variety of backgrounds from within the community. OPVs can be appointed at any age between 21 and 70 years, and usually retire at 75, although there is a degree of flexibility about the latter. Their appointment is at the discretion of the Governor of the prison in question, but it is worth noting that successful applicants are selected for their calibre and lack of bias, and they must satisfy the security requirements of C.T.C. and C.R.B. Once appointed OPVs must not expound their religious or political views:- the NAOPV is not an evangelising organisation.

Being an OPV is a responsibility. Although each newly appointed OPV is issued with the "Handbook for Official Prison Visitors", the OPV will find that each individual prison is different. Some prisons are modern, others appear (outwardly at least) to have changed little since they were built in Victorian times, some are privately administered, the majority are part of the state system and some have been converted to their present use from other institutions (e.g. former military camps or grand family houses). Prisons, and prisoners, are differentiated by different categories, with Category A being the highest risk and Category D being the lowest risk. Prisoners can be re-categorised during their sentence.

Obviously Official Prison Visiting will vary from one establishment to another, depending on circumstances. Some things, however, are constant. The security of the prison, its staff, prisoners and volunteers is paramount and the OPV must never do anything to compromise this. Prisoners who have applied to see an OPV are usually pleased to see their Visitor, although there may be times when, for a variety of reasons, the prisoner may reject their visit and the OPV must be ready to accept this. OPVs should also be aware of the pressures felt by prison staff, officers will often be found to be helpful and friendly, especially if OPVs take the trouble to get to know them. However, officers have their job to do, and at times that job may lead to an officer refusing, or being unable to help an OPV with a specific request. It is important that the OPV recognises this fact.

How much time does visiting take up? There is no hard and fast rule, some OPVs will spend an hour or two a month, others may spend three hours or more each week.

Prisons are a different world, in fact a "world within a world" and any visitor from the outside needs to remember this. If they do then Official Prison Visiting can prove to be a worthwhile, warm and truly rewarding task and responsibility.