Meet Dara, a Student Placement Volunteer

Dara was studying psychology at Nottingham Trent University and chose to do his placement with Pact...

Why did you choose Pact for your Student Placement?  

For a psychology student, there was very limited opportunity to work in a prison environment, where I can gain knowledge, experience and build up on confidence in such unique circumstances. Even though we do not work directly with service users, being in and around the environment is extremely valuable. 

What does a normal shift look like for you?   

There is a set routine in terms of day to day this includes tasks like booking in visitors at the visitor’s centre, working in the tea bar on visits, helping prepare content for visits, advising and supporting visitors on visits, cashing up money taken from visits, to more admin tasks like booking the visits for visitors via phone or email, approving visitors to visit, checking with public protection to ensure offenders are allowed to see certain individuals, signposting and advising visitors via email or phone. This is all on paper, however and in reality, shifts are a lot more dynamic, as there are regularly curveballs like visitors coming with the wrong ID and we have to see what we can do to help or ringing up the wings to enquire about loved one’s concerns.  

Was the placement what you expected?  

The placement was largely what I expected in terms of the job role, however, with the actual experience, there was a fair bit that I was surprised by.  As it is a remand prison, there is a high offender turnover, so we got new service users all the time. As a result, we were constantly having to deal with unique issues from visitors who had no idea of the system. Also, working in the tea bar with a red band- prisoner in a trusted role- was a unique experience as we had to maintain specific boundaries while also being colleagues. The prison system was also surprising as we worked in tandem with the main prison and I quickly go to realise how much responsibility they placed n us as a third-party organisation.  

What would you say to someone who is considering using Pact as an organization for their Student Placement? 

I would say it is a great opportunity to gain valuable insight into the criminal justice system due to everything you are exposed to. It definitely takes a tough skin, as some things you hear and see can be gruesome. It is also the sort of job you feel rewarded by; because we work so closely with families, you tend to build a rapport and you can directly see the difference you are making. It is also a well-rounded role as it gives you a range of roles on a day to day which means you develop quite a range of skills.