Tempe Retiree Touches Lives at Local Prison

For as long as she can remember, Tempe senior Ruth Kearns has felt comfortable with people from all walks of life. So it came as no surprise when the former teacher began volunteering at a local federal prison a decade ago. Now living at Friendship Village Tempe senior living community, Ruth still visits FCI Phoenix monthly to spend valuable time with prisoners.

“I volunteer there because these people are human beings just like you and me,” explained Ruth. “Many prisoners don’t have anyone to visit them and have little to no contact with the outside world.”

Ruth’s visits involve conversations with inmates, including those serving life sentences and others in solitary confinement. She says she enjoys offering much-needed support and companionship during a difficult, lonely period. Such work is impactful, given that frequent prison visits reduce the risk of recidivism, according to research by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“By simply talking with them, I’m able to see them progress as citizens,” said Ruth. “Some are in there for life, but many will get out and have a life outside prison. And being able to help means a lot to me.”

At Friendship Village, Ruth’s fellow residents and team members are extremely supportive of the endeavor. In fact, the community champions an active lifestyle for residents; one of its foundational pillars is “Open Arms,” which promotes acceptance for all. It’s fitting that a person of Ruth’s caliber calls the community home.  

“Living at Friendship Village has allowed me to comfortably pursue this effort and so much more,” Ruth noted. “I believe in practicing what you preach, and everyone welcomes you with ‘Open Arms’ in the same way I accept the prisoners I work with.”