What is an Official Prison Visitor?
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 all sections of the community:
- They are male and female
- They are of every race, religion and colour
- They are unpaid volunteers.
The NAOPV is especially interested in encouraging applications from members of the BAME and LGBT communities, as they are currently under-represented.