Apply to Become a Volunteer in a Pennsylvania Prison

Volunteers are essential to supporting individuals during their incarceration. You can apply to become a volunteer in your local state correctional institution.

Five people wearing shirts that say "Volunteer"


Volunteering in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections provides a fulfilling opportunity for citizens to change the lives of inmates in a positive manner. In turn, the lives of citizens are enriched as well.

The DOC recognizes that volunteers provide a vital role in helping the department mission to enhance public safety by providing educational and treatment services to inmates.

By simply showing up volunteers demonstrate that someone in their community cares about an inmate’s well-being. By modeling positive relationships to prison authorities and each other, volunteers model what it means to live in healthy relationships. Through faithful attendance, volunteers demonstrate what it means to be responsible and accountable community citizens. Finally, by giving of themselves, volunteers demonstrate that the best gift to give to others is their time.

Within the DOC, volunteers serve in a number of areas that address inmate needs:

  • Alcohol and Other Drug Treatments (AA, NA)
  • Alternative to Violence Programs
  • Art, Sewing and Quilting Classes
  • Dog Training Programs
  • Hospice
  • Long-Term Offender Groups
  • Music Programs
  • Parenting
  • Reentry Classes
  • Religious Programs
  • Veterans Groups

Get Start Volunteering

Complete the following stps so you can get started serving inside the DOC's facilities.

  1. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator at the facility you wish to volunteer and ask how you could be most helpful in addressing inmate needs.
  2. Read the Security Orientation for Non-Department Employees.
  3. Submit the following documents to the Volunteer Coordinator:
    1. Centralized Clearance Information Request Form
    2. Volunteer Application
    3. Emergency Information and Security Consent Form
    4. PREA Training Acknowledgement of Understanding and Duty to Report
    5. Letter of Endorsement
  4. Each Volunteer Application will be processed, and a background check will be completed. The Volunteer Coordinator will contact you once this process is complete.
  5. If approved as a volunteer, you will:
    1. Be required to submit documentation that you have a current, valid Mantoux test (Tuberculin Skin test) result at the time you begin to volunteer. This may be done for free at any correctional facility, with arrangements made through the Volunteer Coordinator.
    2. Be asked to attend a Security Orientation to become more familiar with Department rules, operations, and expectations of your role and where you will have the opportunity to ask questions.
    3. Have a Photo ID taken and be enrolled in the Biometrics system

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. If an approved volunteer at one facility wishes to volunteer in more than one facility, he/she must first secure an invitation from each additional facility’s Volunteer Coordinator to serve. The volunteer will provide a copy of his/her completed Emergency Notification and Security Consent Form to the Volunteer Coordinator at each new facility in which he/she will volunteer.

Most inmates know their poor choices have resulted in their being incarcerated. But they are also under the impression that their families and the community have written them off as being “failures and losers.” By their presence, community volunteers provide invaluable hope to inmates who must come to terms with their incarceration and try to piece their lives back together again. In many cases, volunteers discover that they receive so much more than they give when they offer their services relating to inmates.

The Department wants to ensure the safety of all those who are in its facilities, including inmates, staff, visitors, and volunteers. Toward that end, the Department wants all volunteers to be prepared for situations they might encounter in case of an emergency. Additionally, like most governmental agencies, documentation is the means by which the Department can demonstrate volunteers have been thoroughly screened and trained before they begin their service.

A successful volunteer is one who readily asks questions to enhance their understanding and appreciation of how the Department operates and cares for the needs of so many inmates. A successful volunteer is willing to learn from those who have preceded the volunteer, who is faithful when scheduled, never forgets his/her surroundings, and offers helpful feedback to the institution regarding their volunteer experience.

Volunteers can be suspended or terminated from service for rule violations, as violating rules of the Department are viewed as a critical security breach. For this reason, it is critical that volunteers: adhere to all Department rules, never assume that rules were intended for others and not themselves, and always ask for permission first for and receive approval to do anything or bring anything into the prison.

Contact the Statewide Volunteer Coordinator