FCI Ray Brook’s Inmate Volunteer Corps began in 1997. The concept of the Corps is to provide inmates with an opportunity to commit them to perform community projects for various organizations. The Corps also wants the inmates to gain a keen awareness of community needs and their ability to positively affect those needs.
Initially, the inmates were canvassed to determine how many of them would be interested in participating in community service projects. About 60 of the inmates responded positively, and then letters went to 50 community organizations informing them of the Inmate Volunteer Corps. These letters were invitations asking for responses if there was a project the Corps could complete for the various organizations.
Next, a four-week class on volunteerism was presented to the interested inmates. At the conclusion of the class, the first community service project began. Shortly after the first project was started, there were others in line to be completed. To date, the Corps has completed eight community projects. Their projects include the High Peaks Dove Project. Ceramic dove ornaments were used as fundraisers by the local Hospice organization for two years. Another project entailed the inmates creating United Way posters for their yearly kick-off campaigns held in September. For two years, the inmates restored the Village of Lake Placid and St. Alphonsus Church Nativity Scenes and read kindergarten level books on tapes so they could be shared with the children at St. Agnes to improve literacy. The Corps also participated with St. Bernard’s Church and created ceramic angel ornaments to use as fundraisers for the elementary school gym equipment. Certificates for participation in community service projects are distributed to the Corps members upon completion.
Currently there are 65 members of the FCI Ray Brook’s Inmate Volunteer Corps, and collectively, the men involved in the program have contributed 1755 hours of community service within the perimeter of the institution. This can be equated to a $22,536.80 donation of volunteer work.
The Inmate Volunteer Corps concept is presented at each Admission and Orientation class at the institution for new arrivals with the hopes of having the Corps continue to grow. The Volunteer Coordinator at Ray Brook’s also makes contacts searching out new opportunities, and the staff members are able to give suggestions.