Indiana spends $500 million per year on incarcerating adults. When released from prison, employment and housing is difficult to find. Stastics show that 85% of new offenses happen when an ex-offender is under-employed.
By helping ex-offenders remain employed, we are actively helping them restore their lives and contribute back to their communities. In addition, when we help one person remain out of prison for a year, the state of Indiana is able to reduce the funds used for incarceration.
“When our employees come home from prison they have so many needs, including housing and transportation,” said Gregg Keesling, RecycleForce President. “But perhaps the greatest need, and one often overlooked, is the lack of social capital. Working with Trusted Mentors provides our employees with that important need – social capital. Trusted Mentors is a strong partner for our program.”
Trusted Mentors uses the power of mentoring to help adults establish stable lives by reducing the chaos brought about by poverty, homelessness, under-employment and the effects of incarceration. These person-to-person mentoring relationships improve lives by developing life skills and positive social networks.
Becoming a Trusted Mentor
The requirements of the program for mentors include being 25 of older and having a stable lifestyle. Mentors come from all walks of life, from business professionals to the formerly homeless or incarcerated. Trusted Mentors go through two two-hour sessions of training, a background check and follow-up interview.
The training itself focuses on the practice of mentoring. Trusted Mentors goes through a mentoring model while talking about the characteristics of successful mentors. Some of the topics include listening skills, building trust and building the relationship between a mentor and mentee. “We spend quite a bit of time talking about the mentees’ perspective of the world,” said Craig Neef, Operations Director at Trusted Mentors. “Mentees range from ex-offenders to those who are homeless. We talk about how this has framed their view of the world, they might think differently than you do.”
Mentors and mentees plan to meet on a montly basis for around six hours of contact. This contact time is made up of one hour face-to-face meetings and supplemented by texts, phone calls and emails. Although it’s really up to the mentor and mentee how long the relationship lasts, these relationships typically last around 15 months. When it ends, the mentee is in a better place and doesn’t need to meet as frequently, but typically a friendship has been formed so they stay in contact.
Trusted Mentors help their mentees with fundamental development of personal qualities such as self-esteem, accountability and reliability; personal traits that mentors can help them develop. They also help with life skills ranging from financial knowledge to parenting to searching for a job, including aiding in finding the right resources.
RecycleForce and Trusted Mentors
RecycleForce provides Peer Mentors through the help and training of Trusted Mentors. These Peer Mentors not only lead the activity on the floor but pass on their wisdom to their mentees. As they interact daily at RecycleForce, the Peer Mentors are there as a support system. Trusted Mentors trains our Peer Mentors to develop one-on-one relationships with mentees at RecycleForce so that they have someone they can speak to and have conversations about things they are struggling with during reentry. Since the Peer Mentors have been in their shoes, they can relate and help their mentees push through the struggle.
The Peer Mentors are available to their mentees for 120 days during their transitional job, and then after that, the Trusted Mentors can step in and start to build a relationship as the transitional employees leave RecycleForce and transition to another job. This way, they have some continuity with a mentor available to them.
The Importance of Trusted Mentors
Craig Neef has been working at Trusted Mentors for about five years and was a volunteer for several years prior to his employment. “I was matched up with an individual, and I had very little experience working with anyone returning from incarceration. This individual had been homeless for about four years and was an ex-offender with serious health issues. Since that time, I’ve worked with four individuals, all completely different. What I learned was some of the things you were taught in class – good listening skills, helping to be supportive and encouraging the individual along the way to work on their goals. We help them over time become self-sufficient. While we’re working on things to help the mentees become stabilized, it helps work towards them feeling really good about themselves, making good decisions and becoming comfortable running their own affairs.”
Last year, Trusted Mentors saw that while somebody had a mentor, 93% of them stayed housed and 90% did not re-offend. “We feel really good about the general success we’ve had,” said Neef. “We are growing about 25% every year, people are recognizing the value of having a mentor. 191 people were mentored last year and it’s looking like about 225 people this year. Now we need to find more mentors to serve more people, the demand is there.”