Are you interested in making an impact on your community that can transcend generations? The justice system presents countless opportunities for volunteers to lend a hand. Here are just a few examples.
Volunteer to help the prison population.
Several government and nonprofit organizations have opportunities to assist the incarcerated in various ways—from ensuring justice is administered according to law, to programs that ensure institutional safety and organizations dedicated to helping former prisoners and parolees re-enter society. To help individuals currently in the prison system, you can volunteer for an organization like Inside Circle, whose stated mission is “create environments in which prisoners can work and explore the issues in their lives that have prevented them from living up to their full potential as human beings.” And if you’re looking to make a difference in as little as hour, PrisonerVisitation.org can show you how.
Help children and families outside who have relatives inside.
The impacts of parental incarceration on children have been linked to poverty, poor academic performance, aggression, depression, delinquency, and substance abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has created a Child Welfare Information Gateway, with multiple links to volunteer opportunities that enable you to help these children, depending on your available time and life skills. And as a volunteer for Assisting Families of Inmates (AFOI), you can make it possible for families to visit loved ones in remote, rural prisons in addition to working on programs to prevent crime and lower recidivism rates.
Help tomorrow’s leaders sharpen their justice skills.
Thousands of students, from coast to coast, participate in mock trial training programs every year. And their success depends heavily on volunteers. As a volunteer judge, jury member or litigant, you can help bring authenticity to “courtrooms” for these future leaders. Programs such as those run by the Constitutional Rights Foundation and the Massachusetts State Bar seek current lawyers and judges to assist with their trials. But you don’t have to be member of the judicial community to get involved. Many local law schools need volunteer jurors for their own mock trials. For example, Harvard Law School has been running a program seeking volunteer jurors every year. And some schools even offer perks like free meals.
Make the ultimate commitment to a child in need.
Providing a safe, loving and nurturing environment for a child can help ensure he or she stays out of “the system” and on the right path. If you have the means and the motivation, you can volunteer to be a foster parent or explore the adoption process. On a smaller scale, you can join a group and volunteer to provide additional assistance to foster parents and children in foster care through Together We Rise. The organization is headquartered in Southern California but has opportunities across the country.
Find even more volunteer opportunities in your community today. Try this simple volunteer search.