What days and times can I volunteer?
We are able to offer reentry advising on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at San Quentin. We meet at the gate at 6:00 pm and generally stay until 8:30 pm. We also have a small Friday afternoon program from 2:30 - 5:00 pm but we don't often have openings for volunteers due to space limitations.
Will I be able to carpool with other volunteers?
Yes. We usually have people driving from the East Bay and San Francisco on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is customary to help pay for gas and tolls when you get a ride with someone.
What if I have a past misdemeanor or felony on my record?
You cannot get a gate clearance at San Quentin unless you have been off probation for at least five years if you have a misdemeanor, and/or off parole for at least ten years if you have a felony.
How often should I come in to the prison to volunteer?
Most volunteers come one evening a week (we meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings only), but you are welcome to come twice a week if you can commit to that much time. You can also choose to come in every other week.
What is the process of becoming a volunteer?
You must submit a resume, and answer our questionnaire, then attend two 2-hour orientation sessions in either order. After attending the first orientation, you will need to sign a waiver and confidentiality agreement, and your clearance data (name, date of birth, driver’s license number, social security number) will be submitted to San Quentin which takes up to three weeks. Upon completion of the second orientation and clearance by the prison and then you may begin volunteering. You must be at least 21 years old to volunteer in the prison.
What is my time commitment?
The weekly commitment is approximately ten hours, including commute time to the prison, time at the prison and time doing research for clients. We require a six month commitment from volunteers, but prefer at least a year.
What should I wear?
The prison has very specific rules about the types and colors of clothing it allows. This will be covered in depth in the rules orientation and is included in the volunteer handbook.
Will I be safe?
Yes. You will always be supervised by other volunteers, the program director and/or custody staff when you are inside the institution. We find that our clients are on their best behavior while participating in the program and we have never had a safety problem in the program’s history.
What is the specific environment where I will be working?
We conduct advising in a classroom with tables and chairs. There are generally 5-10 volunteers as well as 15-20 clients in the room at any given time.
What experience do I need?
One of the program’s strengths is that we draw from a wide variety of community members who provide different experience and expertise. The primary skills that are required are good internet/search experience, good phone skills, and excellent email communication.
What kind of training will I receive?
You must attend two 2-hour orientation sessions in order to begin volunteering. The rules orientation covers all the regulations regarding working in a prison: what you can wear, do, bring etc. as well as prohibited behaviors. The job training orientation will give an overview of our clients and what types of information we are asked for most. The procedure for seeing clients, what a typical night entails, and common issues will be addressed. Once you come to the prison, you will sit with another volunteer and be mentored for one to three weeks, giving you on-the-job training and supervision.
What types of crimes did our clients commit?
Every kind. Our clients range from first time, low-level drug offenders to those convicted of homicides. San Quentin mainline population (which is where we get our clients) are medium security inmates, and therefore are considered at low risk for any security violations either due to the nature of their crimes or their time of incarceration with good behavior.