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Back when he was a senator, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback spent a night at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility. He asked inmates why they kept getting brought back into the system.
The answer was a lack of a support outside the prison walls.
In July 2011, the Mentoring 4 Success program was created through the Kansas Department of Corrections to help facilitate the transition back into the community for former inmates.
"Since we started this program about 18 months ago, there have already been 1,500 matches that have been made," said Gloria Geither, Mentoring 4 Success Mentor Director.
The state funds eight mentor coordinators to help recruit mentors and make matches with the former inmates. The costs are quickly offset, Geither said. It costs $25,000 annually to house an inmate in the system.
"It costs more if we don't, because offenders will just keep coming back," she said. "They don't leave wanting to fail. They're leaving hoping to succeed."
Geither said the statewide initiative still needs more volunteers. Mentors receive six hours of training to learn the ins and outs of the KDOC. From there, mentors are asked to make face-to-face contact with an offender once a month for a year to 18 months.
"It would be great if we have somebody that has a particular skill set that can help our offenders with a GED, or help provide housing of some sort, or job opportunities for them - those kind of qualifications, or if you're a professor of some sort that can help educate them and things of that nature," Geither said.
"Even if you don't have any of those particular skill sets, if you just have the heart, passion and desire to work with our offender population, that's all it takes."
Geither discussed the work of Mentoring 4 Success on KFDI's At Issue program. A copy of the podcast can be found here.