Mentoring for ex-prisoners – will it work?

9 05 2013

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling today announced plans to increase support for people being released from prison in England and Wales.

The plans include encouraging ‘mentoring support’ from former prisoners who have ‘turned their lives around, to help those who are yet to do so.’

Here at horsesmouth we have mentors who have experienced all sides of the system – from ex-offenders who have benefited from mentoring and become mentors themselves, to mentors who work within the prison service and voluntary sector.

One mentor works within the prison service and has set up a local charity providing mentors for prisoners coming to the end of their sentence. Of mentoring ex-prisoners he says,

‘I have been running Lighthouse Mentors now for 4 years. We are really getting some positive results. Some mentees do return to custody for various reasons but we found that they are mostly positive, and when they go back out they remember all the advice and guidance they have received and go on to serve their communities fully.

‘We are currently undergoing accreditation and evaluation and these are very busy times indeed. We have mentors waiting to join us. We have had some very good success stories and even one mentor who started with us as a mentee when he was in prison, so he has come full circle with us.

‘We have a very good crop of mentors and they are doing some marvellous work. A lot of my mentors coming through are ex-offenders and that is fantastic as they have experienced some of the situations the mentees find themselves in.’

One mentor who is an ex-prisoner believes that his time in prison puts him in the perfect position to ‘offer life changing advice to ex-prisoners, parolees, etc., who are struggling to find their feet after release.’

He says, ‘Being an ex-prisoner, I know what it’s like on the inside, being isolated, losing family and friends. I also know what its like to return to society, which in a lot of cases has changed dramatically. Having someone independent and anonymous to speak to helped me, and now, I want my turn to do this for others. Knowing how hard life can be, how cruel society can be, how isolated you can feel, puts me in a position to offer valued advice, or just an ear to listen.’

So, can mentoring help to rehabilitate ex-prisoners and prevent re-offending? From those who are already doing it, the answer seems to be ‘yes’.

Horsesmouth is a free-of-charge, fully moderated, online mentoring community. To become a mentor, search for a mentor, or find out more about what we do, go here.

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