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Home arrow Law arrow The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change

Volunteer Perspectives on Satisfaction with Experience

Though not the primary focus of this chapter, we do want to first acknowledge that various facets of compassion satisfaction fuel volunteers’ excitement and energy for work behind bars. This positive satisfaction often stems from an understanding that this type of work is necessary and can be further stimulated by intentional self-care practices, like those we offer as an appendix to this chapter. We offer brief evidence of satisfaction expressed through formation of communities, creative growth, and recognition of human connection.

Writing Builds Community

As Anderson & MacCurdy (2000) have argued, writing can reveal commonalities that bring together people who have experienced different, but nonetheless painful or emotional traumas. Several volunteers echoed the importance of group and communal spaces. Margaret, for example, described her experience in the workshop:

When you sit in a circle and everybody is there to create something new, it is just like a little miracle because of all the stuff that gets poured out in the space of an hour and a half while we are there, it didn’t exist before we sat together.

Viva’s words also supported this theme: “The best moments were doing the songwriting workshop, having this moment where everyone created something together. I felt like we were all in the room together as creative people, creating a thing together.” Both Margaret and Viva describe the physical space of the workshop (“in a circle,” “in the space,” “in the room”), undoubtedly because, in the confines of a jail, the notion of space is impossible to ignore. However, both volunteers felt that this space was filled with a positive energy, because they were creating

something together. The power of creative individual and group energy emerged as a strength of the volunteers’ experiences that can be channeled into functional self-care tools for volunteers.

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