Volunteer with the John Howard Association

The John Howard Association of Illinois appreciates your interest in learning more about volunteer opportunities within our organization. We rely upon volunteers to fulfill our mission. There are three areas for which we seek and place volunteers:

  1. Prisoner Information Services
  2. General Administrative/Office & Fundraising
  3. Citizen Prison Monitoring

Volunteering at JHA
New JHA volunteers typically are required to commit to first working with our Prisoner Information Services Project or help with general office duties. For volunteers living in the Greater Chicagoland area interested in Prison Monitoring visits, we require in-office volunteering. This provides a great opportunity for the volunteer to learn more about the correctional system in Illinois, as well as learn more about the unique issues faced by those who live and work in the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. We find that this knowledge is extremely helpful for volunteers attending monitoring visits. Volunteers who are unable make the long-term commitment required for training with information services or visitation should let the Volunteer Program Manager know this, so we can keep you informed of shorter-term volunteer opportunities with JHA or other related organizations.

Prisoner Information Services
Prisoner Information Services volunteers help the organization respond to the over 3,000 letters received from incarcerated in state prisons and county jails in Illinois, as well as phone calls and emails from loved ones. These volunteers are trained and supervised by our staff to ensure continuity in messaging. Many of the letters we receive discuss issues faced inside the facilities. We also receive requests for information, such as copies of legal materials and general interest items. Due to all correspondence being privileged, volunteers must commit to keeping information confidential and currently volunteers must volunteer in our office. Privileged mail allows the incarcerated person to write to our office privately, which allows our organization to read unfettered thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the individuals who write to us. These perspectives are important, as they help inform our prison monitoring visits. You may read more about the types of letters we receive by clicking here. Volunteers will also assist with other projects as needed.

General Office & Fundraising Duties
Volunteers who assist in general office duties may help the organization by organizing files, printing and copying documents, stuffing envelopes, participating in data entry, making thank you phone calls to donors, assistance with special events, or general research. They may be assigned to work with our Office Manager, Director of Development, or another staff member at JHA. These activities are discussed individually with volunteers when these services are needed.

Prison Monitoring Program
The Volunteer Program Manager and Prison Monitoring Project Director meet regularly to discuss volunteers' progress and suitability to participate in JHA's Prison Monitoring Project. We attempt to have volunteers with diverse backgrounds and expertise on visits to assist with citizen prison monitoring. Selected volunteers will be required to attend a training and orientation session led by JHA staff at our office. In addition, we require volunteers to agree to abide by our Rules for Visiting Correctional Facilities, as well as the rules of the facilities we visit.

Citizen volunteers are among the few non-corrections professionals who see behind the walls of our prisons and juvenile facilities. With volunteers on almost all visits, we regularly inspect Illinois' prisons and juvenile facilities, talk to incarcerated people and staff while doing so, and JHA uses information from our volunteers who attend these visits in reporting our observations and recommendations to corrections officials and the public.

We recommend that Prison Monitoring Project volunteers be willing to commit to attending at least three facility visits in the first year and at least two a year thereafter, and we encourage more frequent visiting. Facility visits take place on weekdays and require some flexibility in scheduling. Experience and return visits increase the value to both the volunteer and to JHA. Volunteers must prepare in advance using materials provided by JHA staff. We also require volunteers on monitoring visits to take detailed notes to be shared with JHA staff.

Selected volunteers must pass a background check consisting of a review of criminal history conducted by the Illinois Department of Corrections and/or Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. This process may take two to six weeks.

Interested in volunteering? Here are the next steps.
Please submit a volunteer application by clicking here. Please be reminded that volunteers typically must volunteer for a period of time in our office before they are invited to attend monitoring visits.

Contact person
If you have any questions or concerns regarding JHA’s volunteer programming, please contact Scott C. McWilliams, Volunteer Program Manager, via email at smcwilliams@thejha.org.