Inmates in Cork Prison will be trained to work as Samaritan volunteers to help fellow inmates through troubled times. The ‘Listener’ scheme will be set up in the Rathmore Road prison in the coming months, with inmates being selected within the next number of weeks for the programme.

Prisoners will first have to be selected from an interview process held for inmates who express interest in becoming a “listener” for the scheme. The scheme is already in operation in prisons in Dublin and is also operated in each prison in the UK by the organisation.

Cork Prison will be the first outside of Dublin to have such a service.

Director of the Cork branch of the Samaritans Cindy O’Shea said: “We will train prisoners to listen to each other and we also go in once a week ourselves to talk to prisoners who need to talk to someone like us. The training of the prisoners will give them the skills to be Samaritans, or listeners, themselves.”

She added: “There will be roughly one listener to 50 prisoners and any prisoner who needs to talk to someone will know they have somewhere to go.”

Ms O’Shea said prisoners could feel very isolated and alone in prison, particularly if family members were going through hardship and they were not there to help them through it. She added: “Prisoners have been removed from their own local network and are institutionalised, in a way.

They can feel very helpless in prison.” A special room will be assigned in Cork Prison for the Listener Scheme where inmates will be able to meet their designated listener to talk through their problems in a non-judgemental way.