Prisoners are recognised as being a high risk group in terms of suicide and self harm and Samaritans work in partnership with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to reduce the number of suicides and instances of self harm among prisoners. Feltham Young Offenders Institution is part of the local community covered by North West Surrey Samaritans.
The NWS Prison Team is made up of six volunteers whose prime function is to deliver and support the Listener Scheme, which started twenty-five years ago and can be found in almost all prisons in the U.K. Selected prisoners (Young Adults aged 18-21) are trained by the team to be Listeners, who fulfil the role of Samaritans inside prisons. Listeners receive the same training as Samaritans, but it is tailored to their environment, with greater emphasis on self harm and face to face calls. As with Samaritans, all Listener calls are confidential between the Listeners and Samaritans. In addition to their training role, the team visit once a week to give the Listeners the opportunity to offload any concerns or problems and to give general support as needed.
Listeners are in a better position than Samaritans to empathise with fellow prisoners as they are able to appreciate, at first hand, the problems and stress that other prisoners are experiencing and are available 24/7. The Scheme gives them a renewed sense of purpose, increases their confidence and adds crucial life skills that are beneficial both inside prison and upon their release. Listeners are supported at all times by Samaritans and they form an important close bond.
On each Prison Wing there is a Samaritan Phone, a dedicated line to Samaritans, which prisoners can use to make confidential calls in the privacy of their cell.
The Prison Team also support the prison staff, if required, and the Samaritan Phone is available to them too. The Team spend a considerable amount of time promoting the Listener Scheme to the staff as their support is essential for it to be beneficial and to run efficiently for all concerned.