ABC Literacy Resources, a program of Nassau Presbyterian Church, is a non-profit group of volunteers drawn from churches and the community at large in the Trenton/Princeton area. The group points out that 60 to 80 percent of the men and women in prison are functionally illiterate and 25 percent have a learning disability.
The group, led by three experienced reading specialists, works with L.I.F.E, a literacy initiative by prisoners for prisoners. In addition to consulting with L.I.F.E., volunteers provide resource materials and library books and teach classes in literature, writing, poetry, team building, and management skills.
The group, led by Lois Young (609-924-0667), is looking for volunteers to help with many tasks, including producing public information, developing research sections of prison libraries, tutoring (training required), monitoring legislation, speaking and writing for public awareness, donor contact, and proposal writing,
Amachi in New Brunswick, a mentoring program, works with the children of prisoners. Volunteers spend one hour each week for one year with the child of an incarcerated parent. Amachi is especially interested in working with organizations that have two to ten people interested in volunteering. For more information, call Ame Bora at 732-249-6330.
CASA, a group of county based programs, whose acronym stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, assists both the Family Court and the Division of Youth and Family Services in advocating for abused, neglected, and abandoned children. For more information on CASA of Mercer County, call 609-434-0050. For Middlesex County, call 732-246-4449.
Project C.O.P.E. Mentoring, a program working with 28,000 Camden children who have a parent, and sometimes both parents, in prison. Like Amachi, C.O.P.E. asks volunteers to spend one hour a week for one year with a child. Call 856-964-1990, ext. 180.
Prison Fellowship is a Christian program with volunteers who lead Bible studies and in-prison seminars, assist crime victims, mentor at-risk youth and ex-prisoners, and deliver gifts to children of prisoners at Christmas. The organization is based in Maryland, and has a Pennsylvania/New Jersey chapter. For more information, call 800-861-0498.
New Jersey Judiciary, the people who administer justice, offer a surprisingly wide range of volunteer opportunities. There are programs that involve mentoring people on probation, mediating cases involving minor crimes such as shoplifting, working with the Division of Youth and Family Services on boards making recommendations on the future of children placed outside their homes, and monitoring visits between children and parents who have been forbidden to have unsupervised contact with them.
For information on volunteer opportunities in Mercer County, call Paula Andrews at 609-571-4027. In Middlesex County, call Alona Jackson at 732-519-3439.