I had just moved to Exeter and was semi- retired. Exeter is a new city to me and I was looking for something different to do to fill in time. Volunteering felt like it would provide a stimulus but I wasn’t interested in helping out at charity shops or fund raising. A visit to the Exeter CVS gave me a list of volunteering activities and the stand-out option was running a book club at Exeter Prison for the over 50s.
My reasons for choosing this are entirely selfish. I wanted to join a book club with men of my own age and was particularly keen to slip out of my comfort zone. This seemed to fit the bill. I can’t admit that I chose this option to help my fellow man. People who know me would not describe me as charitable.
After a few chats with Liz from RECOOP I went along to the prison for a taster session. I could have dropped out at that stage but had no intention of backing out and have stuck with it.
Although the prison and its population are intimidating the Book Club meetings are lively. I think the Book Club members enjoy it and it least it kills a couple of hours for them. I let the group choose the books and I was interested that they prefer non- fiction books. However, my group have all been sent to other prisons to complete their sentences so the next group may view things differently.
There is a challenge to sitting with a dozen or so men serving long sentences. We don’t have very much in common in our past, present or future. It is also interesting to meet people who you have only recently read about in the local paper. With all that in front of me I know that it is not for me to judge them – other people have done that.
Winston Churchill said that “the true measure of a civilised society is how it treats people accused of crimes”. I hope I am civilised.
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