Prison Listeners Perform An Invaluable Role: Prisons Minister Andrew Selous

Prison Listeners and Samaritans volunteers do “fantastic work” across the prison system by providing  valuable skills training for prisoners and support for those struggling in jail, said Prisons Minister Andrew Selous at a conference this weekend.

Speaking at the event in Rugby, the Minister said: “I want prisons to be places of rehabilitation”. Secretary of State Michael Gove has put great emphasis on helping prisoners to turn their lives around, he added.

Providing support around work, education and family, especially retaining family links, has a protective element, the Minister said. “Getting this right at the start of the sentence is critical to reducing suicides,” he said. Safer Custody Teams also do invaluable work in this area.

Attending the conference was to show the Government’s commitment to reducing suicide and self harm in prison. The Minister said he was also keen to demonstrate his personal commitment.

The joint National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Samaritans and Listeners conference was held in Rugby on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 October. Samaritans’ Listener scheme provides emotional peer support in prisons across the UK and the Republic of Ireland to reduce suicide and self-harm.

Half of prisoners had no qualifications and only ten per cent were up to level  two in literacy and numeracy, which is the standard of an average eight year old. Prison was an opportunity to help them with education and training. “Getting young people to talk about how they are feeling is part of that work,” the Minister said.

“Ministers take suicide in prisons very seriously and effective rehabilitation in prison is at the heart of that,” he added. At the moment there were some Victorian jails which are not fit for purpose and the Government intended to build prisons more suited to rehabilitation, he said.

The partnership with Samaritans to provide the Listener Scheme is the largest NOMS has with a charity, the Minister said.

Peter Tillett, who was a Listener in HMP Wandsworth, said: “It is a very powerful scheme which has had a massive impact. Prison can be dehumanising and the Listeners are often the only people you can talk to.”


For more information please contact Sue Royal in Samaritans’ Press team on 0208 394 8348 or

Picture Caption: Common cause: Prisons minister Andrew Selous and Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland

Notes for Editors

Facts about the Listener Scheme, in 2014 there were:

  • Prisoners are eight times more likely to take their own lives than the general population
  • More than  1600 Prison Listeners in jails in the UK and Republic of Ireland
  • 139 prisons in the UK and the ROI run Listener Schemes
  • 86,000 Listener contacts in prisons every year

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place to talk for anyone who is struggling to cope, whoever you are and whatever life has done to you. Please call 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill). Prisoners can contact Samaritans free of charge on 116 123.

You can also contact Samaritans via email, or visit to find details of your nearest branch.