Becoming a prison motivational speaker is an honorable quest. There are many inmates looking for hope and encouragement, and prison authorities are generally open to those who are willing to help. Speaking in prisons is a labor of love, so don't count on it being a paying position unless you raise outside financial support for your efforts. However, there is a need, and if you're willing to help, here are some things you can do to prepare.
Becoming a Prison Motivational Speaker
Decide on your message as a speaker. Be specific: Do you want to help inmates learn business skills, or earn a diploma? Do you want to give them spiritual encouragement--i.e., prison ministry? What qualifies you specifically to speak to these men and women? Develop a niche, know your material and never go into a speaking situation unprepared.
Determine how you will present yourself to prison authorities--whether you are simply a concerned individual wanting to help, or whether you are part of a larger ministry or organization. If you are a member of the clergy, this will open some doors to you. It may also be advisable either to associate with an existing non-profit organization for prisons, or form one yourself. This will not only lend credibility to what you are doing, but it will also enable you raise funds from the private sector for expenses.
Use the Internet to get contact information for the state or federal prison system, and submit a query. You can do this by email or phone, but using the mail will appear more official, especially if you follow up with a phone call. Explain to the warden what you would like to do, and ask what the prison's policies are for booking speakers.
Fill out the prescribed paperwork for each prison system you plan to enter. You will likely need to fill out a visitor's application and submit to a background check, among other procedures.
As you secure opportunities to speak, mark the dates on a calendar. If you are planning a trip with multiple stops, try to optimize these to save time and expense. Be careful not to overbook.
Raise the funds to cover your expenses. Keep accurate records of your expenses and income, just as with any business.
Before launching out on your own, it's a great idea to get involved with someone who is already doing what you would like to do. Volunteer for their organization--watch what they do and ask questions. The more comfortable you are with the process beforehand, the easier it will be for you when it is time to do it yourself.
If your motive is truly to help inmates, you should do more than just speak and leave. Try having something in print or on CD or DVD for your audience to take with them. Also, try to book repeat visits to prisons, to follow up and build relationships. In Prison Fellowship's Frontlines magazine for November 2009, long-time prison minister Ashton Hardy emphasizes that inmates truly need regularity.
Prison can be a dangerous place if procedures are not followed. It is critical to know and adhere to all security policies, rules and regulations at all times. Failure to do so can result in lost privileges at best, and endangering others and yourself at worst. Don't jeopardize your ability to help people by being ignorant of the rules.