Interview with RECOOP volunteer - Mavis Davis.
In the second of a series of interviews with RECOOP volunteers Nick Le Mesurier, project evaluator, speaks to Mavis Davis, long-time volunteer with older offenders in Devon.
Mavis Davis has been a volunteer with RECOOP for six years. She cuts a slight figure in the prison environment, but her presence is enlivened by a broad smile, which she shares with everyone. A committed Christian, her faith informs her approach to volunteering.
NLM: What attracted you to become a volunteer with RECOOP?
MD: I had thought I’d like to work with prisoners for some time before I started. I didn’t really know what to expect. I wanted to do something that helped affirm the human dignity of everybody, no matter who they are or what they’ve done. I felt that prisons are a part of society where there is still a lot of work to do. I think it is enough to take someone’s liberty from them without inflicting further punishment. And so when the Mothers Union, of which I’m a member, were approached by Age Concern some years ago I was pleased to take the opportunity.
NLM: What sort of things do you do with RECOOP?
MD: I go in to Dartmoor prison most weeks. I’m just there to help really, to talk with people if they want to talk, to be a familiar face. I recently took part in a play that some of the prisoners put on – that was fun! I like to be involved with the students who come in.
NLM: Prison is an unusual environment in which to work, and it doesn’t suit everybody. What were your expectations when you started?
MD: I don’t think I had any very firm expectations. I had no idea what a prison might look like from the inside, apart from what I’d seen on Porridge! Maybe I thought it would be quite grim, lots of people wandering around in a quadrangle, that kind of thing. It turned out to be a lot more colourful inside than I’d expected. I think I also thought that the older prisoners might have a kind of authority over the younger ones. That idea definitely came from Porridge! But I soon found out it’s the other way around; which is no different from the rest of society, really. Perhaps that’s a pity.
NLM: What sorts of things do you think older prisoners need most?
MD: Many have been in prison a long time. Some people decline quite visibly, and they’re not always very confident in speaking up. They need to be told things, because they’re not in a position to find out or make arrangements for themselves; things such as health problems. There was a session recently on men’s health and how to recognise the sorts of things that affect men as they get older. That was useful.
NLM: What would you advise anyone thinking of volunteering in prison?
MD: Have a respect for each person’s humanity, but also be respectful of the rules. You mustn’t be too familiar, but you can still offer kindness.
- RECOOP awarded @esmeefairbairn grant to fund new development work to support even more older service-users across t… https://t.co/VWSeqZTyet8:56am, May 22, 2019
- Thank you @RNIB for visiting the Lobster Pot at HMP Leyhill and delivering a Confidence Building Course which was… https://t.co/nCAlLh6ckv9:37am, Apr 30, 2019
- @Clinks_Tweets Great to have Paul Grainge with us from @RECOOP_UK to speak today. A national charity specialising i… https://t.co/U1VRcLoFgl10:56am, Apr 04, 2019
- We’re pleased to be part of @clinks #flexibilityisvital and hope that momentum continues https://t.co/YqEKSW0p8v11:17am, Apr 01, 2019
- Transition 50+ Resettlement Programme “really provides a focus for the men, some of whom have spent a very long tim… https://t.co/5r9ZKJ9D0n10:05am, Mar 18, 2019
- Just published: 'A Different Sense of Time' – a portfolio of RECOOP’s age-appropriate services to aid prisons find… https://t.co/zGMs8LY5nu11:25am, Feb 19, 2019
- Over 34,000 individuals benefited from RECOOP's 50+ Day Centres in 2018 https://t.co/FR4jwYZkZx10:29am, Feb 06, 2019
- RECOOP’s Distraction Packs address the need for prisoners to “…. access stimulating in-cell activities to help them… https://t.co/axl9pTpqTS9:20am, Jan 23, 2019
- We were delighted to be invited to The Langley House Trust’s carol service at The Knole in Cheltenham. Merry Christ… https://t.co/5XLyDRc0vA10:04am, Dec 20, 2018
- We are delighted to have been awarded a further 3-year contract to continue to provide Day Centre provision for the… https://t.co/yuoYzJKnlp9:15am, Dec 18, 2018