Dartmoor prison

What we do at Dartmoor prison

Samaritans volunteers select and train prisoners to offer confidential emotional support to their fellow inmates. These prisoners are called listeners.

The Listener Scheme is a peer support scheme.

Prisoners are trained and supported by Samaritans, using their same guidelines, to listen in complete confidence to their fellow prisoners.

The objectives of the scheme are to assist in reducing the number of self-inflicted deaths, reducing self-harm and helping to alleviate the feelings of those in distress.

Nearly every prison in England, Scotland and Wales now has a Listener scheme with well over 1200 active Listeners across the estate.

Dartmoor Prison and North Hessary" by Nilfanion - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dartmoor_Prison_and_North_Hessary.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dartmoor_Prison_and_North_Hessary.jpg

How does the Listener Scheme work?

Samaritans volunteers select and train prisoners that have expressed an interest in becoming a Listener and have been cleared by the prison's Security team.

Prospective Listeners attend an intensive training course which is based on standard Samaritans training but which is adapted for use in the prison setting.

Listeners receive a certificate on completion of their training and they sign a Compact that binds them to the same policies as Samaritans volunteers.

Prisons aim to have one Listener per 50 prisoners. The Listener team establish a rota within each prison with the aim of providing a 24 hour service to anyone who needs it. Wherever possible, support is provided in a private environment to allow complete confidentiality.

Prisoners do not receive any form of remuneration for becoming a Listener.


The policy of confidentiality for Listeners is exactly the same as for Samaritans volunteers. This is vital in encouraging prisoners at risk of taking their own life to use the service. Even after a Listener has left prison, their work as a Listener must remain completely confidential. Similarly, confidentiality remains even after the death of a contact. Listeners who cannot keep to this should not continue as a Listener.


Listeners receive regular support in the form of weekly or bi-weekly support meetings with Samaritans volunteers. They may discuss confidential matters at these meetings and can also phone Samaritans at any time to offload and debrief after a difficult contact.