Most of First Friends’ services are delivered by volunteers, committed to the belief that detainees should be treated with dignity and respect. Our volunteers help both while immigrants are being detained and after they are released. And some volunteers gain a lifelong friend in the process! We also encourage our volunteers to join First Friends in advocating for the elimination of immigration detention in the United States.


  • Visit Detainees: By visiting detainees at the jails or detention centers (at the Elizabeth Detention Center, the Hudson County Correctional Center, the Bergen County Jail and at Essex County Correctional Center), you can provide much needed contact with the outside world, emotional support, and a path to other services. If you speak fluent Spanish, we especially need your help.
  • Prepare Stamp Out Despair Packages: Detainees have no means of communicating with family and friends. You can donate pens, paper, cards, envelopes, stamps and calling cards and/or help assemble the into packets that meet the strictly enforced rules of the detention centers and jails. Some volunteers create “Stamp Out Despair” events with their religious or civic organizations to spread the word and the work.
  • Become a Pen Pal: If you can’t visit a detainee at the detention centers, you can reduce their isolation by writing to them regularly, helping to accomplish many of the same ends as face-to-face visits. We especially need people who can correspond in Spanish.
  • Contribute to the Commissary Fund: Detainees can only acquire personal care items and food to supplement the low-quality rations that they receive by purchasing at commissaries run by the detention centers. Prices at these commissaries are generally much higher than a regular retail store. By donating money into First Friends’ Go-Fund-Me account you provide with the means to make commissary grants to detainees.
  • Help Free Friends: First Friends, has helped scores of detainees pay court-ordered bonds to secure their release as they await their court hearings. This way, they can avoid spending years in prison-like conditions and instead be with family and friends. This effort is even more critical during times of health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic
Volunteer Kids

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