Criminal Justice and Mentoring Program Examples

The word is that helping others improve is best done by showing them a role model of what “good looks like”. That’s probably as valid for criminal justice efforts to support people as it is for people trying o start or improve their program to help people in the criminal justice system. Here are some examples of “what good looks like”. We hope these examples may be a help to you in your work.

The two most evident lessons these examples provide are:

1. That mentoring is a critical startegy for rebuilding self-confidence and belief that, with support some one with a troubled life CAN improve their circumstances and their lives.

2. That mentoring ALONE is NOT sufficient to make all the difference that is needed. Mentoring works best when it is one central strategy within a system of support where each component is designed to address one or more of the needs of the target population. It is the “synergy” of such a system that can make the life saving difference. Blessings on uour work as you put these two principles to use to make a difference where you live.


Prison Entrepreneurship Program

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) brings business executives and felons together through a mentoring program. Their goal is to help prisoners rejoin society and they do it in a very creative and unusual way!

According to PEP CEO Catherine F. Rohr, the prison population includes “…seasoned entrepreneurs, having run highly successful enterprises such as drug rings and gangs.” Such experience and socially unacceptable “success” is a strong indication that some may already have the skills to establish and run
legitimate enterprises.  The PEP program staff start the process by explaining this concept to ex-convicts they contact, and seeing which ones they can recruit into the PEP program.

The business professionals who are the mentors in the PEP mentoring program then help their protege ex-convicts by:

  • Helping the protege reflect on what made them “successful” in their previous “business”;
  • Teaching the proteges how those factors relate to running a legitimate business;
  • Helping the proteges develop goals and a business plan to start and manage a good business;
  • Guiding the protege in a self assessment of their existing management skills compared to what they will need to know and do in their new venture;
  • Providing accountability for sticking to the business plan;
  • Providing support, guidance, and problem solving help as the protege implements the plan;
  • Honoring and celebrating the milestones the protege achieves.

Welcome Back – A Faith-Based Ex-Convict Program

From “Program Helps Ex-Convicts Connect With Communities”, By Darren Barbee, Fort Worth Texas Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Retrieved January 3, 2011 at

Before Welcome Back, linking ex-offenders with support and the needed resources was often random and haphazard, said Jerry Cabluck, the program’s local coordinator. Since about 2008, Welcome Back has connected ex-offenders with local religious communities and support groups across Texas. Welcome back is an e-mail referral system which is used to alert participating churches when an ex-convict has been released from prison and is returning to their local area.

The program sometimes struggles to organize, attract volunteers and gain broader acceptance from churches, but their successes have literally saved lives.

The volunteer priests, pastors, and ministers who work in prison visitation ministries start the system by asking inmates a few days before their release for their names, addresses and religious preferences. The information is e-mailed to local houses of worship, denominational, and church associations and to programs based where the offenders plan to live. Volunteers in those local communities then make one-to-one connections.

Rev. Jerry Phillips, an associate pastor at First Baptist Huntsville and a former law-enforcement agent, and Restorative Justice Ministries Network, a Huntsville charity, created Welcome Back, which has since spread to other prisons in the state.

About 72,000 men and women were released from Texas prisons from September 2003 to August 2004, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Welcome Back volunteers estimate that 9,000 ex-offenders are returned to Tarrant County (DFW) annually. This year, at least 650 were referred to some 60 local churches through Welcome Back.

The program is part of a national trend of efforts to assimilate ex-convicts into communities. Experts say it’s too early to tell how effective the program will be in combating recidivism.

“These guys can’t make it unless there’s somebody in the community helping them,” said the Rev. Emmett Solomon, who heads Restorative Justice Ministries Network.

Many ex-convicts see the local pastors and priests as “a spiritual mentor”. Even limited religious programs appear to curb recidivism, according to a recent Baylor University study. But once a convict is released from prison, such programs have a limited effect if an ex-offender doesn’t connect with a religious community, said Sung Joon Jang, a sociology professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

“A mentoring program, especially after being released … is absolutely necessary,” Jang, the researcher said.

The T.O.U.C.H. Inmate and Post-Release Mentoring Program

THE PROBLEM:- Out of Control Recidivism Rates

Currently available programs typically offer only short-term solutions for the long-term problems ex-convicts must face. There is a need for programs that address the dire situation of prisoners entering our communities with little or no job skills, inadequate drug treatment, insufficient housing, and a lack
of positive influences and basic life skills.

The T.O.U.C.H. program is designed to effectively assist prisoners with positive reintegration into society.  T.O.U.C.H. is defined as:

(1) TEACHING necessary life skills,
(2) Providing employment OPPORTUNITY
(3) exercising UNITY by
(4) CONNECTING with prisoners regardless of prison walls,
(5) with open and spirit filled HEARTS.

T.O.U.C.H. is a Mentoring Program for pre release and formerly incarcerated individuals. The program addresses the needs of those who have completed their sentences but are at risk of re-offending upon release because they lack the education, job/life skills, and stable family or living arrangements needed
to successfully reintegrate into society. The program works to establish a connection between the ex-offender and his/her community to help them during their journey toward successful reintegration.

Retrieved january 3, 2011 at

US Federal Assistance for Ex-Convict Programs

There are several programs available for people wanting support for their work with ex-offenders.

1. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is available to employers as an incentive to hire felons and at-risk youth.

2. The Federal Bonding Program is another employer incentive. – The program provides fidelity bonding insurance coverage to individuals with criminal histories and other high-risk job applicants who are qualified, but fail to get jobs because regular commercial bonding is denied due to their backgrounds.

3. ALL WorkForce development offices have counselors that help felons find employment.

4. The Workforce Investment Act provides funding for training and tools needed for a felon to aquire responsible and gainful employment.

5. Temporary employment agencies. Many of them go out of their way to find employment for felons and many of these jobs are temp to hire.

Professors with a Past

by Warren St. John, New York Times, August 9, 2003

Retrieved January 3, 2011 at

Stephen C. Richards, a criminology professor at Northern Kentucky University, usually begins his sociology of corrections classes lecture with a confession and a promise.

I’m an ex-con,” Mr. Richards, who served nine years in federal prison for selling marijuana, tells his students. “I’m going to tell some stories and you’ll read books that you might not read in other classes. And by the end of the semester, you’re going to know more about prisons than you ever imagined.”

Mr. Richards is a self-described “convict criminologist,” and a member of a small group of ex-convict professors who are shaking up the criminal justice field by challenging some of the academic establishment’s assumptions about prisons and inmates. With convictions ranging from selling heroin to armed robbery and even murder, they have tenure-track positions at public universities, attend academic conferences and act as mentors to current convicts who hope some day to join their ranks.

These criminologists are the first group of ex-convict professors to organize into a scholarly movement that is open about their past. They argue that if you combine and form a system based on their experience, you can come up with a new understanding of criminology.

The former inmates engage in research to support their argument that incarceration is over-used in the United States – which has a prison population of 2.2 million – and that prison is needlessly dehumanizing. They say,”Ex-cons make good criminology professors because we know so much about the system.”

The convict criminology movement got its start in 1997, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminologists. Charles Terry, a recovered heroin addict who spent 12 years in prison for various crimes and who is now a criminology professor at St. Louis University. Over time, the group drew the attention of
other ex-convict scholars who had kept quiet about their pasts.

Some of the ex-con professors are now mentoring dozens of ex-convicts who are working on bachelor’s degrees- one of the students, an ex -convict who spent 16 years in prison for murder, was recently accepted into graduate school. These persons become successful and they become mentors of others in turn.

The Judicial Process Commission

The Judicial Process Commission (JPC) offers a mentoring program for individuals with criminal records in Monroe County, NY, which is the Rochester, NY area. Working with county inmates prior to release, JPC addresses concerns about re-entering society and offers job readiness training, including resume writing, interview techniques, a Job Club and assistance in networking to find employment.

The Doe Fund’s “Ready, Willing and Able Program”

The Ready, Willing and Able – Day program offers paid transitional employment. The program offers 35 hours per week of paid transitional work, case management, education, vocational training and mentoring. It also provides job training, preparation and placement, as well as long-term follow-up services to ensure
that participants make a lasting transition to personal responsibility and self-sufficiency.

The Ready, Willing, and Able Day Program Web Site is at

New York State Department of Correctional Services

The Department of Correctional Services has a two part new employee support system:

  1. The NYS-DCS Training Academy
  2. The NYS-DCS Mentoring Program

In practice, these two support elements are fully integrated and overlapping in time and effect.

The Training Academy involves eight weeks of coursework and practice of the knowledge, skills and applications needed by a professinal corrections officer.

During work in the Academy new recruits also receive support from a specialized mentoring program which links experienced Correction Officers with Correction Officer Trainee recruits. Mentors are assigned to each recruit by the Correction Officer Recruit Sergeant at the Academy.  Mentors are available to the Correction Officer Recruits at all times during their eight weeks of training. The goal of the mentoring program is to help them transition from civilians to fully assume and succeed in all the duties of the Professional Correction Officer. In this sense it is a ture professional mentoring and induction program

On completing the Academy, the mentoring is extended for another three weeks during transition from the Academy to the workplace. The role of the mentors in the various facilities is primarily on-the-job training, problem solving, guidance, and support for continued professional growth..The program is administered by the Division of Training.


A man who has done extensive research on this subject posts his findings and information on a web site at