Prison Clubs

Through the years, there have been many Toastmasters clubs in prisons throughout the world. You might ask---how does that work? Do prison inmates fully participate in club activities? Do such clubs have their own officers? How do prison club officers get trained? How do they pay their dues? Can inmates participate in speech contests?

District 54 has had some very good experiences with prison clubs in the past. Such clubs normally produce lots of educational accomplishments with strong particpation and full meeting agendas. Other districts have had similar experiences. Overall, those inmates who have completed at least a Competent Communicator manual have very low recidivism(return to prison) rates. Accordingly, Corrections Departments everywhere are asking for Toastmasters help in chartering and supporting more prison clubs.

So why do we not have more prison clubs? Most of the answer lies in the difficulty prison clubs have in paying their dues. Inmates earn money, but it is very limited and often goes to support their personal needs. Toastmasters recognized this need years ago and provided a lower cost “gavel club” solution. A “gavel club” is specifically designed for situations that do not otherwise qualify for full fledged Toastmasters clubs; prisons, youth, halfway houses, etc. “Gavel clubs” are supported directly by Toastmasters World Headquarters with little or no district involvement and reduced dues.

Recently, the Toastmasters International Board of Directors addressed this issue by creating a “segment” of the Smedley Foundation where members and friends can make tax deductible donations that can be used to support dues payments and other expenses for prison clubs. That new “segment” now exists as part of the Smedley Fund, however procedures to manage donations and assure those donations go to the prison club of your choice have not been established.

Accordingly, the Board of Directors asked me to lead a project to identify the structure, processes, and procedures that will be needed to allow tax deductible donations to be made seamlessly. A “core team” involving Toastmasters from many districts has been formed and is working to accomplish the above objectives. District 54 is a large part of the project in that it is a “pilot test” district for developing these processes and procedures. Ray Termini has been appointed District 54 “Prison Club Coordinator” and will be communicating with you regarding specific activities in District 54 and how you can participate. I will be working closely with Ray as we go through this project to assure compliance with TI requirements. We will keep you informed as we progress through the project.

Jon R. Greiner, DTM
Past International President, 2004-2005
Toastmasters International
District 54 Leadership Development Chair, 2017-2018