To Mentor A Prisoner

A couple of years ago, I saw a post about prisoners who wanted mentors. Without any exposure to the criminal justice system,  I wasn’t going to give it a second thought, so I don’t really know why I decided to go to an informational meeting.  Maybe it was because I had convinced myself that the next chapter of my life was going to involve delving into some slices of life of people who I otherwise would never have a chance to meet.

I had successfully added volunteer opportunities  to my weekly routine which involve Hispanic kindergartners, Somali refugees, underserved teens, and the homeless. So why not consider a prisoner as well?  I quickly learned about the high percentage of people who end up returning  to correctional facilities but also how that number dramatically drops for prisoners who have had a mentor.  I know that fear is often what prevents many individuals from walking through the fenced-in facility, but once inside, all that’s needed is to offer a friendly face to someone who may really be in need of one.

When I went to visit Audrie at the prison where she had been for more than a year, I had the distinction of being her first ever visitor. She later called me her “link to the outside world.”  During the last two-and-a-half years, we met monthly and exchanged letters and emails to keep in touch.  On Monday, Audrie got out of prison, and I was there to celebrate her entry back into the real world.

We never know what impact we might have on others, but I know that I have gained a tremendous appreciation for those who make mistakes, pay their dues, and sometimes become better people because of it. I also know I  gained a friend in Audrie.

NOTE:  Two organizations in which I have been involved are:

Amicus — https://www.voamnwi.org/community-justice

Twin Cities Prison Ministry — http://www.stjosephcommunity.org/prison_ministry.aspx

 

 

Karen Kitchel is passionate about scattering kindness. Currently she serves meals to the homeless, is a volunteer teacher, writer, job coach and mentor.

4 replies
  1. Jana Nash
    Jana Nash says:

    Karen, Your capacity for genuinely caring about others continues to expand. Your story is a great reminder that it doesn’t take money or a grand gesture to completely change someone else’s life forever in a positive way. Thank you for sharing yourself with Austin, and for reminding us to share ourselves too.

    Reply

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