The following suggestions are offered as an assistance to those who may find themselves in the position of working with or teaching prisoners:
1. It is often more effective to work with prisoners of one's own gender, particularly in a one-on-one setting. Since prisoners are segregated by gender, they may be more easily distracted by someone of the opposite gender than they would be outside of prison.
2. Care should be taken to dress appropriately. In a setting where all prisoners wear a uniform color of coveralls, they may find a business suit intimidating or overly casual clothing to be distracting.
3. Respect the privacy of the prisoner by not asking what he did to be incarcerated, though it is entirely possible that the prisoner will share this information on his own.
4. Since prisoners are exposed to many negative attitudes and behaviors, it is important to maintain a positive attitude when conversing with them. It is especially important not to give the appearance of criticizing other religious or ethnic groups or the prison administration.
5. Prisoners should clearly understand that becoming a Bahá’í is an expression of religious belief and that they should not expect that the Bahá’í community will provide them with either career education or a job when they are released from prison.
6. It is helpful to know what resources are available to prisoners in the prison itself. For example, many prisoners have a history of substance abuse, and most prisons and jails have treatment programs. In addition, many prisons offer education programs to assist prisoners in getting high school and college degrees as well as professional training.
7. Check with the prison administration in advance before bringing any refreshments or publications into the prison.
8. Use discretion in giving out any telephone numbers and addresses to prisoners, keeping in mind that this information may fall into the hands of other prisoners who may abuse it. Under no circumstances should a prisoner, whether enrolled as a Bahá’í or not, be provided with a community membership list, nor should community newsletters be sent to prisoners.
9. Be careful not to make promises to prisoners that cannot be fulfilled. This will only disappoint them and cause disillusionment. Some prisoners may ask for help in contacting friends and family who are not accepting their collect calls or answering their letters. Again, discretion should be exercised in the handling of such requests as the parties may have good reasons for not responding to the prisoner.
10. If a prisoner who is a Bahá’í is scheduled to be released from prison soon, consult with the prison administration and social service agencies in the area about what services, such as shelter, healthcare and employment, might be available to him upon his release.
11. Treat prisoners with respect and dignity. Ask about their interests, values and enjoyable activities. If a prisoner feels that someone is genuinely interested in his well-being, he may have more credibility in your confidence in him that he can reform his life through the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.