To meet the ever-growing needs of the U.S.' most vulnerable citizens by encouraging and supporting local efforts to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services, and "by showcasing the great difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, its system of justice, its communities and, most of all, to the clients they serve." Includes a volunteer opportunities function for lawyers seeking to do pro bono work. Links to State Pro Bono Programs.
Established in 1969, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York City is the pioneer in arts-related legal aid and educational programs about the legal and business issues that affect artist and arts organizations. They provide a national VLA Directory by state to assist the arts community in areas outside of the New York region and recommend contacting your local and state arts council and bar association if seeking information and access to services.
The VIPS Program provides support and resources for government agencies interested in developing or enhancing a volunteer program and for citizens who wish to volunteer their time and skills with a community law enforcement agency. The Web site has a range of publications, videos, and podcasts on the subject of policing by volunteers.
Practical tips on volunteers mentoring youth in the justice system.
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Law Enforcement Settings
At the Family Court
Submitted by Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.
At the Family Court, we quickly learned how hard it is to obtain written monthly reports from male volunteers working one-to-one with boys on probation. Our situation was compounded by the fact that we were recruiting many men who, by design, were in trades that required skills other than writing. They simply were not used to recording their activities. We also discovered that some volunteers were hesitant to "report" on their youngster, feeling that this violated the relationship they were trying to build. We respected these facts, but still needed to monitor what was going on. Also, probation officers and judges wanted to include the progress of the probationers assigned to our program in their planning and counseling.
What to do? Our solution ended up being successful. We recruited volunteers who did not want to be matched, or were not appropriate for a match (especially women), and made them a sort of "case manager." Each of these administrative volunteers was assigned a case load of 10 to 20 matches and telephoned the volunteers monthly. They also telephoned the youth. I can't remember what title we assigned to this position, but it was something like "Team Reporter." The matched volunteers were given a report form on which to record the dates and hours they met with their boy, and any notes they wanted to make. We even included a column for the youth to complete, too, so that they could fill in the form together as a sort of diary of their relationship. All volunteers were given the choice of mailing in the report or working with a Team Reporter. Because they were expecting the Team Reporter's telephone call, the field volunteer was prepared with a response.
The Reporter recorded all responses on forms that then became the official report. These calls had some added benefits, too. The personal touch of the phone call provided greater connection with the volunteer working off-site, and in conversation potential problems surfaced more readily than they would have on paper. The Reporter was able to alert the program coordinator when a volunteer or a probationer needed her attention. Every month, the program coordinator selected ten or so matches to call herself, just to keep in the loop. We found, by the way, that this was a perfect assignment for students considering either social work or criminal justice counseling careers.
Submitted by Linda Bailey, Mesa Police Department
, Mesa, Arizona, USA
In a law enforcement environment, distinctions between sworn and civilian personnel are deeply felt. Officers may think of volunteers as untrained, inexperienced and uncommitted. Attitudes change slowly, so expecting officers to eagerly supervise volunteers may be unrealistic.
We have successfully broken down attitude barriers by creating a volunteer council. It consists of all those who supervise volunteers--both sworn and civilian paid staff--who take on a sense of ownership of the volunteer program and really care about its results. They help me plan our volunteer recognition banquet, formulate volunteer performance evaluations and have helped with advertising ideas for recruiting new volunteers. When problems arise involving volunteer supervision, we have an open, supportive forum in which to discuss possible solutions. Members of the council have come to recognize how fortunate we are to have so many wonderful volunteers and they have come to understand that volunteers are motivated by the same desires as paid staff: the desire to be a part of something they believe in, a sense of personal gratification, and acknowledgment that their contributions matter. Council members carry these ideas back to their various divisions throughout the department, and in doing this they have helped our whole organization learn to appreciate and welcome volunteer involvement.
Submitted by Jeanne Bernard, Montgomery County Department of Police
, Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
Volunteer programs in police departments are most successful when efforts are made to mirror the paramilitary structure of the organization. This ensures credibility, respect and acceptance. We have standard operating procedures for everything from computer access to termination procedures to recognition ceremonies and produce forms, forms, forms for everything! Primary resistance to volunteers in policing rests with confidentiality and liability issues. Labor issues are also obstacles to the involvement of volunteers. A significant volunteer contribution can represent a creative approach to marshaling resources but there may also be the perception that volunteer involvement will make justifying the need for additional sworn or civilian paid staff difficult, if not impossible.
Security and Sensitivity
Submitted by Eileen A. Derr, Coordinator, Palo Alto Police Department
, California, USA
The two distinguishing characteristics of a volunteer program within a police department are the need for security and sensitivity to the organizational atmosphere and mores. Those who supervise volunteers in law enforcement settings need to pay close attention to these characteristics if they want volunteers to be effective and comfortable. Security requires not only careful screening but making arrangements for volunteers to work in secured areas so that they are free to come and go.
Supervisors also have to prepare volunteers for the atmosphere, which is fast paced and high energy. People talk quickly, move quickly and use police jargon to communicate. Competition and control are strongly ingrained in the police personality, and as a result those traits show up strongly in the organization as a whole. Some volunteers have no problem with this; others struggle with it, and still others never adjust and finally leave.
Police are by nature suspicious. This may be hard for new volunteers who are trying to work with them and maybe make a few friends. Another challenge for new volunteers is adjusting to police humor and understanding the necessity for it. Police humor is quick, mocking, sometimes crude and can border on the macabre. While it is funny, its real purpose is to relieve stress.
A police department is no place for the faint of heart; emotional whiplash is experienced by officers and volunteers alike. Our volunteers have witnessed the angst of a seasoned police officer as he dealt with the aftermath around a victim of an unspeakable crime. We have seen an intimidating, self-righteous, simmering anger erupt from an officer in defense of a person unable to defend himself. We have heard feelings way beyond exhaustion and emotional depletion in the voice of an officer/hostage negotiator who had spent Saturday night and early Sunday morning trying to talk a potential suicide victim "down." The incident ended when the man killed himself with a gunshot to the head. The officer went home to little children waiting to celebrate Father's Day with their daddy. The duality of life and human nature is nowhere more apparent than in a police department. When volunteers are prepared for this, there is no place more rewarding to be of service.
Supervision Involves Trust
Submitted by Barbara Lightheart, Travis County Jail
, Texas, USA
Supervision involves trust. About a quarter of the 380 volunteers here are Twelve-Step volunteers, who lead AA, Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous meetings to supplement our in-house drug and alcohol treatment program. We know these Twelve-Step programs are vitally important to our inmates so we do what to some volunteer coordinators and direct supervisors may seem very unorthodox: we let these volunteers replenish their own numbers by recruiting others. I do not recruit, interview or screen them because we understand the anonymous nature of their work and we trust these volunteers to do their work effectively and successfully. They do.
Three points in training and coaching
Submitted by Elizabeth M. Wynn, Orange County Community Corrections Department
, Orlando, Florida, USA
Those who supervise volunteers in our facility emphasize the following three points in training and coaching our volunteers to ensure their safety and to boost staff's confidence in the volunteers' abilities and judgment:
1. Security always comes first. Volunteers need to be able to recognize danger signals when working with inmates and to identify contraband, which includes many seemingly harmless items.
2. A good working relationship with the officers is essential. This means informing them of changes in program plans and understanding that the officers are there for their protection.
3. Inmates may manipulate and deceive volunteers to gain special privileges. For this reason, volunteers are told not to give inmates their address or phone number and to be cautious about sharing personal information about themselves or their family. Similarly, they cannot accept favors or gifts from the inmates or their families and cannot do favors for them such as making phone calls or providing personal items.
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Last Updated: December 2, 2016
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