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Prison group leads the way

PUBLISHED: 04:08 15 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:47 05 July 2010

MORE than 20 years on from their formation, a prison befriending team has grown in stature.

The Blundeston listeners group meet regularly - as inmates at Blundeston Prison speak to the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Samaritans.

MORE than 20 years on from their formation, a prison befriending team has grown in stature.

The Blundeston listeners group meet regularly - as inmates at Blundeston Prison speak to the Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Samaritans.

In the early 1980s, Samaritan branches across the country were becoming concerned about high suicide rates and despair suffered by those in society who were unable or unlikely to contact them.

With prisoners, or those on remand, forming a high number of people who were behind bars, locked away and unable to contact Samaritan branches, calls for support were refused.

But from 1987 onwards there was a sharp increase in prison suicides - and a subsequent review led to the launch of a pilot listener scheme.

Now, following on from its success nearly all prison establishments in the UK have a Samaritan presence.

Samaritans are involved in the safer custody team, which is a team of officers who are trained in suicide awareness, to meet once a month. The listeners also meet every month, with Blundeston having a listeners' room where an inmate is able to be with a listener until his suicidal feelings have receded.

The prison team are selected Samaritans volunteers from the Lowestoft and Waveney branch and the Great Yarmouth branch and who have received special training.

They go into Blundeston every Tuesday evening between 6pm and 7.30pm to support staff, listeners and inmates.

The listeners are selected inmates who have shown an interest in the scheme. They are then screened by the prison and their names are given to the Samaritans.

The first listener training session in Blundeston was held in 1989 by two volunteers from Lowestoft and since then the group has grown.

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