Prisoner Visitation and Support Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports of Prisoner Visitation and Support are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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It has been an honor to represent BYM on the Board of Prisoner Visitation and Support. I have been moved and impressed by the work of this organization, with its tiny staff and its hundreds of nationwide visitors, many of whom drive for hours to visit prisoners who would otherwise see no one outside the prison.
PVS continues to be authorized to visit all federal and military prisons in the U.S. Its visitors are volunteers who (in normal times) meet monthly with prisoners who have requested visits. In responding to these requests, PVS prioritizes those who do not ordinarily receive visits, are in solitary confinement, are on death row, or are serving long sentences. Grateful letters from prisoners who would otherwise not have any contact with the outside world tell us that our nationwide network of over 400 visitors is engaged in work that matters, and the Board is united in wanting to give them our full support. To learn more, check out our website: https://www.prisonervisitation.org/
As I write, PVS is facing the challenge of weathering a period in which an organization dedicated to visiting prisoners cannot visit due to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, our visitors have been given permission to maintain their support to prisoners by writing letters (which visitors are ordinarily not allowed to do). Letters from prisoners are scanned at our national office and sent on to keep visitors’ addresses confidential. These letters tell us how much our prisoners value this connection, especially in such a stressful time.
It is a difficult time for some visitors who have come to know prisoners on Death Row who will now be executed. In a gesture of kindness, one prison official reached out to a PVS visitor to offer a chance for a last visit.
For over a year, Eileen Gilkenson, longtime National Recruiter for PVS, has stepped up to serve as our Executive Director. She has done a marvelous job but never wanted to continue in this role. We are hoping to hire a new Executive Director shortly! Those of you on our mailing list may be hearing the news first.
In the fall of 2019, a special appeal to Baltimore Yearly Meeting was very helpful to PVS in meeting its small budget. We extend our thanks to all the generous BYM members who responded.
We have never been able to build a substantial amount of backup money to help us through a crisis, and fundraising will be increasingly difficult as long as the COVID emergency continues and visiting cannot proceed. We appreciate all the help we can get to make sure this organization, long supported by BYM and co-founded by a Quaker, does not go under! To help them out, I am donating all proceeds from a new website that sells my jewelry to PVS. Please check out https://susannahmakes.com/ and pass on the information to anyone you think might enjoy some unique, one-of-a-kind, lovingly made jewelry.
Lastly, BYM’s social concerns committee is looking for a new BYM representative. If you are interested, please contact them. Your time and skills will be well used.
Susannah Hills Rose, BYM representative to the PVS Board
Prisoner Visitation and Support is a Quaker-founded nonprofit organization that has just celebrated its 50th year. Its network of over 400 volunteer visitors offer regular visits to prisoners in government and military prisons, including those in segregated housing (solitary confinement) or on death row. For many, these visitors are their only link with the outside world and a crucial support as they envision re-entry into their communities.
This year, PVS asked its long-time National Recruiter, Eileen Gilkenson, to serve as interim Director as we continue to weather a period of transition. PVS is exploring ways to give its volunteers a stronger link to the Board as it seeks to guide the organization and place it on a firmer financial footing. We have few stable sources of financial support and our simple mission - visiting, but not advocating for reform or evangelizing for any religion - seems to make us ineligible for most major grants. We welcome input and ideas on how we can enable this crucial network to continue its work for another 50 years. Please contact Susannah Rose, BYM’s current representative on PVS’s Board, if you have questions or ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As 2018 began, PVS began a new chapter in its 50-year history. After a nationwide search, we welcomed our new Executive Director, Steven J. Gotzler. Our new Director brings a range of expertise and experience to PVS. Steve earned his BS from the University of Wisconsin while incarcerated in federal prison, then graduated in 2000 from Rutgers (NJ) University School of Law and went on to serve a variety of legal and prison-related organizations capably. Over the course of several interactions, the Board, staff, and search committee volunteers became impressed with Steve’s enthusiasm, his insights, and his passion for the people and the work of PVS. Steve writes: “When I was incarcerated, I did not know about PVS. I wish I had. I can attest firsthand to the importance of personal visits and contacts with people outside when inside. Now I am in a position to help bring to other people the visits that would have been so beneficial to me – the kinds of visits PVS visitors make.”
We are working hard to put our nonprofit organization on a more solid footing, wipe out our waiting list of prisoners who want visitors, and increase the diversity of our visitors. We are looking into grant funding as well as additional sources of individual or organizational support. The efforts of Friends who are able to help us grow and achieve our goal of increasing the number of African American visitors will be much appreciated.
PVS continues to be the only visitation program that is authorized to visit all federal and military prisons in the U.S. Its visitors are volunteers who meet monthly with prisoners who have requested visits. In responding to these requests, PVS prioritizes those who do not ordinarily receive visits, are in solitary confinement, are on death row, or are serving long sentences. Grateful letters from prisoners who would otherwise not have any contact with the outside world tell us that our nationwide network of over 400 visitors is engaged in work that matters, and the Board is united in wanting to give them our full support. To learn more, check out our website: https://www.prisonervisitation.org/
Susannah Hills Rose (Patapsco)
BYM representative to the PVS Board
PVS is at a critical point in the life of the organization. This year, it celebrates its 50th anniversary and honors the legacy of the Executive Director, Eric Corson, who led PVS for so many of those years. PVS will say a grateful good-bye to him at the annual volunteer training event, this year in Philadelphia in July. As he retires, Marc Levin has stepped up to the plate as Interim Director and PVS is launching a search for a successor.
PVS continues to be the only visitation program that is authorized to visit all federal and military prisons in the U.S. Its visitors are volunteers who meet monthly with prisoners who have requested visits. In responding to these requests, PVS prioritizes those who do not ordinarily receive visits, are in solitary confinement, are on death row, or are serving long sentences. While many visitors hear about this opportunity through their faith communities, visits focus on the prisoner’s interests and do not have a religious agenda. The intent is to help people cope with prison life and prepare for re-entry into society, and research tells us that visits like these make a difference in reducing recidivism. In fact, at last year’s visitor training event, two prison wardens told us that visitors improved the climate of their prisons, even among those not receiving visitors themselves. Former prisoners who now serve on the PVS Board testify to the positive impact visitors have had on their lives.
The new administration’s policies may mean an increase in the numbers of people held in federal prisons who are in need of visitors. Currently, we have a waiting list of prisoners requesting visitors, and although we have the capacity to attract more volunteers, we are limited by staff capabilities, which in turn are limited by funding. We are looking into grant funding as well as additional sources of individual or organizational support. The efforts of Friends who are able to help us grow and achieve our goal of increasing the number of African American visitors will be much appreciated.
Susan Hills Rose (Patapsco), BYM representative to the PVS Board
PVS is a very small organization (just three staff members) with a very large and important mission. PVS is the only visitation program that is authorized to visit all federal and military prisons in the U.S. Its visitors are volunteers who meet monthly with prisoners who have requested visits. In responding to these requests, PVS prioritizes those who do not ordinarily receive visits, are in solitary confinement, are on death row, or are serving long sentences. While many visitors hear about this opportunity through their faith communities, visits focus on the prisoner’s interests and do not have a religious agenda. The intent is to help people cope with prison life and prepare for re-entry into society, and research tells us that visits like these can and do make a difference. Some former prisoners who now serve on the PVS Board testify to the positive impact visitors have had on their lives.
Founded in 1968, PVS will be celebrating its 50th anniversary soon. PVS’s longtime director, Eric Corson, will be retiring within the next two years, so PVS is preparing for the transition to a new director. A talented new administrative manager, Teneshia Washington, recently led revisions on the organization’s website: www.prisonervisitation.org. The site provides information for current and prospective supporters, as well as resources for visitors. Teneshia’s web-savvy recruitment efforts have resulted in so many new volunteer visitors that the organization is now rethinking its approach to interviewing and preparing visitors in an effort to respond to more prisoner requests. The 450 visitors we currently have tax our visitor coordinator to the limit, and even with increased use of web-based orientation or other strategies, we will need to expand our budget in order to successfully expand our services. The Board is hard working and committed, and we all want to achieve the goal of wiping out our waiting list as soon as we possibly can. We are looking into grant funding as well as additional sources of individual or organizational support.
BYM representative to the PVS Board
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PVS completed its 43rd year of service to prisoners in 2011. Every time a PVS visitor enters a prison and talks to a prisoner with kindness and compassion, he or she carries on the tradition of the PVS founders, Bob Horton and Fay Honey Knopp. We are grateful to each and every one of the PVS volunteers who give of their time to see that Bob’s and Honey’s work does go on.
PRISON EXPANSION: The Federal prison system continues to expand. At the end of 2011, the Federal Bureau of Prisons had over 216,000 prisoners in its care, which is 6,000 more than in 2010. Foreign nationals continue to make up 28% of its population and women continue to enter the prison system at a higher rate than men.
PVS FOCUS: PVS continues to focus on visiting foreign nationals and women, since both groups receive less visits than other prisoners. Our volunteers concentrate on visiting prisoners with an acute need for human contact: those in solitary confinement and on death row, those in maximum-security prisons and those frequently transferred from prison to prison. PVS makes sure we have visitors at all women’s prisons, all maximum-security penitentiaries (including the super-maxes and the death row units) and all medical centers. And we do!
VISITOR RECRUITMENT: Our Visitor Recruitment Coordinators continue to seek qualified new prison visitors, with an emphasis on finding African-American, Hispanic and multi-lingual volunteers. Eileen Gilkenson recruits in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, Eligah Clark recruits in the Southeast and South Central, and Denise Carpenter recruits in the Midwest and West Coast. In 2011, PVS appointed 57 new visitors, bringing the total of our national visitor network to 297. We now have visitors at two prisons where we didn’t have visitors (FCI La Tuna, TX, and CI Cibola County, NM) and we have added 3 more visitors at USP Lewisburg, totaling 13 visitors, due to the prison now being the 2nd BOP supermax. We continue to visit in the Death Row Unit at USP Terre Haute, IN. Our National Visitors and Local Coordinators took most of these new volunteers in for their first visits to help orient them. We have visitors at 91 out of 117 Federal prisons and at 2 of the 15 privately-managed Federal prisons. We have 6 volunteers who visit at 3 Military prisons. In 20 12, we need to recruit visitors for the new Federal prisons in Aliceville, AL; Berlin, NH; Herlong, CA; McDowell, WV, Mendota, CA; and Williamsburg, SC.
NATIONAL VISITORS: The Federal Bureau of Prisons continues to designate Nan Broeder (FL); Denise Carpenter (MO); Eligah Clark (AL); Eric Corson (PA); Eileen Gilkenson (PA); Jeannie Graves (CA); Jomie Long (MO); David Poundstone (CO); Lena Prewitt (AL); and Virginia Rinella (EL) as National Visitors, with access to all federal prisons across the U.S. They meet with visitors, prisoners and prison officials. The National Visitors will meet April 19, 2012, with Charles Samuels, the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Later in the day, they will meet at the Pentagon with Col. Paul Kantwill, the new Director of Legal Policy, Department of Defense (DOD).
VISITOR TRAINING: PVS takes pride in its training of prison visitors. PVS held its national visitor training conference October 20-23, 2011 in Leavenworth, KS. 58 visitors attended. The highlight of the conference was a group visit to the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth and USP Leavenworth, where Acting Warden Jon Loftness, USP Lee, VA Warden Chris Zych, Acting Regional BOP Director Amber Nelson, and Commandant Eric Beleher, USDB Fort Leavenworth, addressed the visitors. The group photos from the conference are on the front page of this report. In 2012, we will hold our conference in Philadelphia, PA, from June 28-July 1, which will include a group visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary, the first penitentiary in the U.S.
NATIONAL TRAINERS: The 2011 national training conference was planned and led by our 7 PVS National Trainers – Co-leaders Jonne Long (Leavenworth ,KS) and Virginia Rinella (Marion, IL), Sara Brenner (Oxford, WI), Joe Davies (Florence, CO), Dan Doyle (Lewisburg, PA), Mary Clare Jakes (Chicago, IL), and David Poundstone (Englewood, CO).
PVS DEVELOPMENT: Since over 85% of PVS’s income is from individuals, religious congregations and other organizations, we seek to continue enlarging our direct mail donor base. We have also reached out to the private prison companies and in 2011 three of them — Corrections Corporation of America, the Geo Group, and Management and Training Corporation — made substantial donations to PVS. In 2012, we hope to renew our planned giving campaign to encourage our donors to assist us in the future by putting PVS in their wills. We continue to seek ways to inform more federal employees that PVS is part of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and we continue to seek out national and regional foundations and businesses. Our award-winning video (also available in DVD) continues to be distributed as a way of doing outreach to potential donors and visitors.
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