Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, speaking at the event

Scottish prisons mark 20 years of the Listener Scheme

Friday 9 May 2014

-For immediate release-

HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow has opened its doors to mark the 20th anniversary of the Listener Scheme in Scotland, aimed at reducing the number of suicides and self-harm in prison.

Samaritans’ Scheme works with selected prisoners, trained and supported by its volunteers, using the charity’s principles, to listen in confidence to fellow prisoners who need to talk.

First introduced in Scotland at HMP Edinburgh in 1994, it now operates across all 16 prisons in the country. Last year there were 740 meetings between Listeners and fellow prisoners.

Cake to mark the 20th anniversary event

Attendees at the event heard from a current Listener who explained how the Scheme operates on the ground inside the prison system and what it means for prisoners to have someone available to listen to them when they are struggling to cope.

Present at the event were Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prisons Service, Mary Fee MSP for the West of Scotland, and representatives of the 15 Samaritans branches from around the country who work to support the Scheme.

Intruding a motion into the Scottish Parliament, Mary Fee MSP commended the work of the Listeners Scheme. The motion has already gained significant cross party support.

Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said:

“I am delighted to be celebrating 20 years of the prison Listener Scheme, supported by Samaritans, being offered in all of our establishments. 

“The long term success of the Scheme is through dedication and commitment from Samaritans, our staff and most importantly the Listeners. They volunteer to provide an invaluable service for their peers who find themselves at a crisis point in their lives.

“The Listener Scheme is an important element in our ability to manage those we recognise as vulnerable within our care.   They have experience that none of the professionals involved can offer.  This is truly a success story and we are proud to support all involved.”

Orla McCaffrey, Samaritans’ volunteer lead for the Listener Scheme, said:

“Being in prison can have a profound affect on an individual’s state of mind. Twenty years of supporting vulnerable prisoners across Scotland is an important milestone both Samaritans and the Scottish Prison Service. We are very grateful to the management and staff teams in the prisons for the help and encouragement they provide. We particularly want to recognise the commitment from Samaritans’ volunteers and the Listeners themselves. They work so very hard, and unselfishly, to help fellow prisoners.

“When a person is in crisis, we know that talking can help a person feel calmer and get through that moment. Talking can help people to see their situation in a different light and find a way forward. We believe this type of support is vital for prisoners.”

Orla McCaffrey, Samaritans’ volunteer lead for the Listener Scheme at the event

Orla McCaffrey, Samaritans’ volunteer lead for the Listener Scheme at the event

Notes to editors:

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123, email, or visit to find details of the nearest branch.