What is an Official Prison Visitor?

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OPVs visit prisoners who rarely, if ever, have visits from friends or family members. They may be the only contact a prisoner has with the outside world – hence our motto “Bringing the outside in”. Once appointed, OPVs are volunteers and are independent of the prison and its staff. Through regular visits, a relationship is built where trust, empathy and understanding are key. Discussions are always confidential, unless an OPV feels there are grounds for concern relating to the prisoner’s health or safety, as well as that of fellow prisoners, staff or the prison estate. Prisoners will know their OPVs by their first name only, thus preserving anonymity and security. OPVs are appointed by the Governor of a prison close to where they live or work. This authority may be passed to the Managing Chaplain in the prison’s Chaplaincy. Prisoners should be made aware of the OPV scheme when they first arrive, and can request to be visited by an OPV; it is for the Managing Chaplain or Liaison Officer to allocate an OPV to a prisoner. OPVs come from Read more…

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What the NAOPV does

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For prisoners OPVs have a crucial role in providing a friendly ear for prisoners. They may be told some very personal details about a prisoner’s life which must remain confidential. OPVs are always non-judgemental and are there to be supportive. For Official Prison Visitors The NAOPV exists to promote, implement and support prison visiting. It supports the work of OPVs locally and nationally. It is recognised by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). It fosters, supports and co-ordinates the work of NAOPV branches, individual OPVs, Liaison Officers and Prison Chaplains. However, it should be noted that: The NAOPV is not a pressure or political group and OPVs should never seek to put pressure on prison governors or staff. The NAOPV is a non faith-based organisation and does not promote any one faith or religion.

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How to become an Official Prison Visitor

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Following initial enquiries made via info@naopv.com, a prospective applicant’s contact details will be passed to the relevant NAOPV Regional Secretary, who will arrange an informal discussion to discuss expectations and provide further details. The applicant will complete an application form and return it to the Regional Secretary, who will forward it to the Managing Chaplain of the most suitable prison. The Managing Chaplain will arrange for an interview with the applicant and seek references. If the candidate is deemed suitable for appointment, the security process will be initiated. Upon successful security clearance, an appointment will be made by the Governor. Most OPVs are aged between 21 and 70, but there some is flexibility, and all appointments are at the discretion of the prison’s Governor. The need for Official Prison Visitors is clear: they are a prisoner’s window to the outside world. The human qualities that are essential for an OPV are patience, understanding, empathy and a sense of humour. The greatest gift you had given me is the knowledge to look at the bigger picture in all aspects of life Read more…

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Can anyone be an OPV? Yes, subject to security clearance, depending on the category of prisoners to be visited. Are there any restrictions on who can volunteer to be an OPV? The following aren’t allowed to volunteer: Journalists Criminal lawyers Students who are researching prisons or the lives of prisoners Any persons employed or actively involved in the criminal justice system. Can an OPV visit any prison? OPVs usually visit at a prison close to their home or place of work; they are only allowed to visit at one prison. How many prisoners can an OPV visit at a time? This will depend on the prison’s arrangements and the availability of OPVs there. How frequently do OPVs visit? Most OPVs visit weekly or fortnightly; frequency is less important than regularity. When do visits take place? This depends on the prison, but usually in afternoons during the week and weekends. How safe is it to be an OPV? Very safe. During a visit, prison staff are always in evidence, whether in the Visits Hall or ‘on the wing’. Does an OPV Read more…

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News and Events

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Where we operate

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The NAOPV operates in England and Wales; at present, there are no OPV schemes in Scotland or Northern Ireland. There are 118 prisons in England and Wales, with a prison population of 79,453 (as of June 2020). Male prisons are organised into four categories, reflecting their level of security; there are also prisons for women, Young Offenders and juveniles. Most prisons are operated by the state, but some are privately run (for example, by SERCO and G4S). Many – but not all – prison establishments have OPV schemes. The frequency of visiting is dependent on the availability of each OPV: some OPVs visit weekly, some fortnightly and some less frequently; what is important is the regularity of visiting. Some prisons form a branch of the NAOPV which provides a support structure for the OPVs within their prison. There are eleven NAOPV regions, each with a Regional Secretary. They provide support to prison chaplaincies, helping them with OPV recruitment, as well as advising staff of the implementation of the regulations relating to official prison visiting. They also provide support to Branches Read more…

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Contact Us

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Drop us an email or fill in the contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. General enquiries: info@naopv.com General Secretary: gensec@naopv.com or call 0784 914 8865 Membership enquiries: membership@naopv.com Having problems with the website? Please contact the Webmaster: webmaster@naopv.com Donations The National Association of Official Prison Visitors (NAOPV) relies on its annual grant from the Ministry of Justice and the subscriptions from its members. We welcome contributions from individuals or organisations who support our work. You can donate by visiting our page on the Charities Aid Foundation website. We use CAF to process donation payments. Alternatively, you can send your donation to the General Secretary at 33, Daleside, Greetland, Halifax, HX4 8QD. Cheques should be made payable to ‘National Association of Official Prison Visitors’. If you would like a receipt, please enclose a stamped addressed envelope. Furthermore if you are a UK taxpayer you can boost your donation by 25p of Gift Aid for every £1 you donate – at no cost to yourself.

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Koestler Arts

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We have renewed an arrangement with the Koestler Trust to use a selection of images from the annual awards in our publications. This website incorporates many of these. “Koestler Arts is the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We encourage people in the criminal justice system to change their lives by participating in the arts. We share their artworks with the public, so people can witness this diverse range of voices, stories and talent.” Find out more on the Koestler Arts website

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