Cofounded by Quaker activist Fay Honey Knopp over 50 years ago, Prisoner Visitation and Support (PVS) continues to provide a supportive presence to those in prison despite the challenge presented by the pandemic.
Each month 400 PVS volunteers visit prisoners in over 100 federal and military prisons throughout the United States. With the onset of the pandemic, all prison visits were suspended indefinitely as of March. Prisoners are locked inside their cells for 23 hours a day as the virus spreads within many of the institutions. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, in recognition of years of PVS involvement, has granted PVS visitors special permission to correspond with prisoners during this period. Some of these prisoners are on death row at FCI Terre Haute and are scheduled to be executed. Prisoners are responding to their PVS visitors expressing deep appreciation for their letters, often the only contact they have with the outside world. Prisoners say that PVS is a lifeline for them, a connection that provides hope in a time of fear and desperation.
During this interim period, PVS staff are using technology to keep in touch remotely with visitors, providing support and resources. Staff are also developing new training resources for visitors to prepare them for returning to face-to-face visits with prisoners who have experienced the effects of trauma resulting from months of isolation.