MAY 5, 2015 ... National studies have shown: mentoring decreases re-offense rates by about 35%. Having long run a Mentoring Program for our Residential clients, in July 2012 Guest House piloted the program’s expansion to women before they are released from incarceration. The pilot site was the Arlington County Detention Facility, and we hoped up to 20 inmates would enroll during that pilot year. Since then—including the pilot year and a two-year rollout—more than 80 pre-release women have become involved, also encouraging other women to enroll. “The response has been extremely positive,” says Mary Lou Dunford, the Guest House Program Coordinator.
"When an individual has someone with whom they can talk and get encouragement, it’s a special visit from a special person and it opens their minds: it allows them to see new options, feel renewed hope and resolve to better their lives.”
—MARY LOU DUNFORD, Coordinator, Guest House Pre-Release Mentoring Program
Each inmate-mentee is paired with one of our volunteer mentors. They meet for an hour a week, often continuing the contact post-release, as many of the mentees enter the Guest House Residential Program or non-residential programs such as Guest House Outreach, the Arlington Drug Court and halfway houses.
Interest has grown to the point where there are more applicants than volunteer mentors. To help fill the gap, several inmates worked with our Program Coordinator to set up a Group Mentoring Program, wherein experienced mentees serve as “peer mentors” to other women. They meet biweekly as a group. “The inmates help each other by sharing their own stories and lessons learned and by giving advice in a non-judgmental way,” explains Mary Lou.
Regarding the program’s overall success and importance since 2012, Mary Lou elaborates: “Many inmates receive no visitors or communication from the outside world and rarely meet with their case managers or attorneys. When an individual has someone with whom they can talk and get encouragement, it’s a special visit from a special person and it opens their minds: it allows them to see new options, feel renewed hope and resolve to better their lives.”
Guest House thanks the pilot-year funders: the Washington Forrest Foundation, the Arlington Community Foundation and Arlington County’s Community Development Fund. The latter went on to fund the program’s rollout, for which we are extremely grateful. At this time, Guest House is seeking continued program funding—for this is work that makes a real difference to the women, to their families’ futures and to the community overall.
Volunteer Mentors Needed!
If you're interested in serving as a Guest House mentor, whether in the Pre-Release Program or in our Residential Program, please let us know. We will provide orientation, training and other supports you would need.
Kim Bauer, Volunteer Coordinator