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File photo of a safety observation cell in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin. Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

Samaritans celebrates 10 years of prisoner listener scheme

Over the past year, Samaritans recorded 1,100 formal contacts within the six prisons in its Listener Scheme, an 83 per cent increase on 2011.

SAMARITANS IS CELEBRATING ten years of its prisoner listener scheme today which it said is an important infrastructure for people who need emotional support in a prison setting.

The charity also said those prisoners who act as a listening service deserve the highest commendation for their professionalism and commitment to the scheme.

Speaking at an event today in Cloverhill Prison, Dublin, to mark the anniversary, National Chair of Samaritans, Pio Fenton said many people suffer emotional distress relating to their crimes or concerns over their families who they cannon connect with in a meaningful way.

“Instances of self-harm and suicide are also higher among prisoners than other groups,” he said.

“Our Listener Service acts as an important emotional safety net for those in distress; it also has an important overall function in the prison setting.”

President Michael D Higgins also attended the anniversary event today and remarked that the scheme is a “vital tool” in prisons and said “lives have been saved by the timely intervention” of the listeners.

Listeners undergo substantial training and become known within the prison service as listeners because they wear a branded shirt so that inmates can approach them in an open setting.

Over the past year, Samaritans recorded 1,100 formal contacts within the six prisons in its Listener Scheme. This represented an increase of 83 per cent on contacts for 2011.

In his address today President Higgins said many courses and training programmes have been introduced to support the prisoners in accessing training and education so as to boost their prospects when they are eventually released, and to help prisoners who may be battling alcohol or drug addictions.

“All of these programmes are designed to support the participant’s development and to give them and their families enhanced hope and opportunity of a better life after release”, he said.

Read: Report asks for more supports for children with parents in prison>

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