Consider offering reentry mentoring to help guide newly released prisoners.
Every year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 700,000 prisoners are released back into our communities. But most won’t stay there long. Within three years of their homecoming — despite many ex-prisoners’ best intentions to “go straight” — 67 percent will be arrested and more than half will return to prison.
For most prisoners, the “free world” presents obstructions and enticements far too forceful to overcome on their own. This is one reason mentoring has been a core part of Prison Fellowship’s ministries for over 35 years. Studies show that the support and accountability provided by a reentry mentor can make the difference between a successful return to society and re-offending.
One advantage of reentry mentoring over in-prison mentoring is that you can meet with your mentee any time and any place – as often as needed. That’s important because the first few hours, days, and weeks after release from prison is when ex-prisoners are highly vulnerable and most prone to feel overwhelmed.
These are some important ways reentry mentors benefit newly-released prisoners:
- Meet them at the gate on release day and help celebrate their freedom
- Provide transportation to their pre-arranged post-release housing
- Be there to provide emotional and spiritual support during the transition
- Help them obtain appropriate clothing and food
- Take them to church and introduce them to a Bible study group
- Ensure they get connected with a local substance abuse support group
- Help them access free or low-cost community resources and services
- Serve as an accountability partner as the ex-prisoner implements the goals stated in their previously-developed reentry plan
Ideally, the mentor-mentee relationship should begin before the prisoner is released. That way, they can establish rapport and work together to develop a feasible reentry plan. Some states have rules against this. If so, the in-prison mentor’s job is to handoff the reentry plan to the reentry mentor before the prisoner’s release date.
Prison Fellowship provides free training for all mentoring volunteers and shows them how to get connected with a local reentry team. If God is calling you to become a reentry mentor, these are some next steps to take:
- For more information about volunteering as a reentry mentor, call Prison Fellowship at 800-251-7411. Or to fill out our online interest form, click here.