Your Relationship with the Facility



We cannot overemphasize the importance of open and clear communication.  Talk to your Supervisor regularly, maybe before or after your class, or on the phone.  Clarify each of your roles.  Talk about your expectations and needs before you begin.  Continue to check in about the peculiarities that come up while working in prison. Communication with the WJA is also tremendously important.  We’re here to support you.  Keep us informed of your progress and call us if you have any concerns.

In communicating with inmates, watch yourself for even the appearance of over-familiarity. Maintain healthy boundaries with firmness and fairness. Do not tolerate infringement of personal space.


Please be aware that you can be refused entrance to the facility at any time and/or be searched.  Be sure to call ahead to the prison before each workshop to confer admittance.  At times the prison has issued a lock-down in which case the inmates are not permitted to attend class.

You need to keep track of and renew your ID every year in a timely manner.


Don’t talk about what goes on inside on the outside and vice versa. Do not use inmate names, other identifying information, or products of their study without written release forms from each individual. The facility may have a standard form to use.


We welcome and encourage staff participation in our workshops. Take advantage of the custody staff, their experience is a resource for you.  Be sure to establish a method of immediate contact with custody staff whether it be with the use of a pager or an in-class correctional officer.  You are not a Department of Corrections employee and you are not to assume any supervisory or custodial duties.  Any questions about this should be directed to your supervisor.


We have established a positive working relationship with each institution by confining ourselves to teaching art.  We have no hidden agenda or other priorities.  There may be pressure from inmates to show concern or assist in other areas.  We discourage this and feel that the success of our program depends on a narrow and conservative view of our role in the facility.

It is important to avoid even the appearance of over-familiarity:  Do not engage in personal transactions with any inmate that could be considered trade or barter.  Do not give or receive from an inmate anything in the nature of a tip or gift.  Do not carry anything into or out of the institution for an inmate.  Do not discuss personal affairs with an inmate.  You must report any contact with a parolee or inmate’s family outside the prison to the William James Association and the Institutional Artist Facilitator or Community Resource Manager.

The California Department of Corrections TITLE 15 stipulates:

section 3399.  Transactions

Employees shall not directly trade, barter, lend or otherwise engage in any other personal transactions with any inmate, parolee or person known by the employee to be a relative of an inmate or parolee. Employees shall not, directly or indirectly give to or receive from any inmate, parolee or person known by the employee to be a relative of an inmate or parolee, anything in the nature of a tip, gift or promise of a gift.

section 3400.  Familiarity

Employees must not engage in undue familiarity with inmates or parolees.  Whenever there is reason for an employee to have personal contact or discussions with and inmate or parolee or the family and friends of inmates and parolees, the employee must maintain a helpful but professional attitude and demeanor.  Employees must not discuss their personal affairs with any inmate or parolee.

section 3401. Transmittal

Employees must not take or send, either to or from any inmate, any verbal or written message, literature or reading matter, or any item , article or substance except as necessary in carrying out the employee’s assigned duties.


Plan to attend security training. It is your responsibility to know and adhere to procedures for equipment, tool and key control. You will learn about this in training from the institution and can consult your supervisor for further guidance in this area. It doesn’t hurt to out-custody, the custody staff. In other words, anticipate and address security concerns at every opportunity.

Always keep keys on your person and it is a good idea to carry a whistle.

Any statement which indicates that violence may be directed toward a specific person must be reported to Prison Staff.

Sexual harassment is not to be tolerated.  It should be confronted from the start with a firm statement that the behavior is not acceptable.  Keep track of incidents from the start, and if it does not cease, inform your supervisor and/or the personnel department.