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Become a Prisoner Advocate: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a prisoner advocate. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in prisoner advocacy.

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Do I Want to Be a Prisoner Advocate?

Prisoner advocates listen to the needs of inmates and their families and work with officials and politicians to resolve practical and legislative problems in prison systems. Advocates may promote education and rehabilitation programs for inmates, lobby for prison reform and provide inmates with information and resources. This position can also include studying past and current issues to develop prisoner rights defense strategies. Jobs may be stressful, especially since there might be more work than an advocate can realistically handle.

Job Requirements

Prisoner advocates typically have a bachelor's degree and experience with a nonprofit organization. Licensing might be required for select positions in certain states. Some aspiring advocates may attend law school and become attorneys to fight for prisoner rights within the judicial system. The following table outlines the core requirements for prisoner advocates according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Criminal justice, sociology, human services or a related field
Experience Required experience varies according to position
Key Skills Excellent oral and written communication, empathy, problem-solving ability

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students can pursue a degree in a number of subject areas, including criminal justice, legal studies, sociology, human services and social work. These programs may involve courses in the justice system, research, criminal law, psychology and ethics. Many degree programs also require foreign language courses, which may allow prisoner advocates to help a wider range of clients.

Success Tip:

  • Volunteer with prisoner advocacy groups. Volunteers can receive in-depth experience working with inmates and their families. Aspiring advocates may visit prisons, participate in fundraising, interview and correspond with prisoners and provide information to the public. Since many groups are run mainly or exclusively by volunteers, workers may play a large role and become involved with many different aspects of prisoner advocacy. Volunteers are often given priority when paid positions become available.

Step 2: Work for a Nonprofit

Although many workers with nonprofit organizations are volunteers, some paid advocacy positions are available, especially for prisoner advocates with a range of relevant skills. Advocates are especially needed to publicize and lobby for the causes of nonprofit organizations. This work may involve studying legislation and preparing arguments against or in support of it, as well as working with the government on behalf of individuals.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics