What does visiting involve?

How does visiting work?

Volunteers tend to visit as part of a group, making the journey to the detention facility on a regular basis to listen, talk and be a friendly face from outside.

While there is no set role for a visitor, their primary aim is befriending and support at a difficult time. Many people detained will have no one else to talk to and we are often told that visiting is a 'lifeline' for those who are held indefinitely. 

Visitors and visitor groups are independent, impartial, and non judgemental, there for the person detained, whatever their circumstances. 

People being held in detention can feel powerless, lonely, anxious and distressed. Detention is hugely traumatic for all who go through it. Visitors can help alleviate this, by: 

  • Befriending and giving moral support: simply being there to listen and care, as a trusted, reliable source of support and friendship, in confidence.
  • Facilitating communication and signposting to specialist support: providing a crucial point of contact between detainees and the outside world, connecting them with specialist support organisations, and helping them to stay in touch with solicitors or legal representatives, family and friends.
  • Helping to ensure basic needs are met: through their group, volunteers may be able to assist detainees with practical everyday needs such as toiletries, second-hand clothing, and phone cards.

Visiting isn’t always easy. Getting to detention centres and prisons can take a long time, security can be complex and visits themselves can be emotionally draining. But the impact of visiting is astonishing. 

“…when I first started visiting I was visiting young men my son's age, and that was quite something - to think about what it would be like for my son in a foreign country with nobody to help him. And I think visiting does help in those situations, because there's actually somebody outside who does really, really care.”

Former visitor to people detained at Winchester Prison