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Volunteers of America provides an opportunity for the community to improve public safety

INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (March 9, 2016) – On March 1, the Second Chance Mentoring Program launched a recruitment campaign called #MentorMadness. The campaign goal is to recruit 15 volunteer mentors by the end of March since there are many people on a waitlist, waiting to get a mentor.

The Second Chance Mentoring Program started in October 2014 as a grant funded by the US Department of Justice. It is a program of Volunteers of America Indiana. The design of the program rotates around the involvement of volunteers. These volunteers act as mentors to mothers and fathers ages 18 and older who are transitioning back into their community from prison. The program's goal is to reduce the high percentage of persons who repeatedly return to prison. For example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that about 77 percent of incarcerated persons return to prison within five years.

Evidence has supported that mentoring programs can reduce recidivism rates. A recent case study funded by the US Department of Labor found that ex-offenders involved in mentoring programs were more than twice as likely to find jobs – a key factor in remaining out of prison. They were 39 percent less likely to recidivate than the case study participants who were not mentored.

What does it take to become a mentor? Latrice Watson, the program coordinator of the Second Chance Mentoring Program, states, "A successful mentor is someone who is willing to walk alongside their mentee no matter where they're at. Often the mentees in this program don't have a reliable or consistent person to lean on. This program provides them with that person. It's important for mentors to show that someone does care, and that they want to help. With the help of the mentor, program participants are able to land jobs, pass the GED, and achieve what they perceived to be impossible."

Mentors are asked to commit to 8-10 hours per month for a one year commitment. The only two requirements are that they must not have a felony conviction; must not have been incarcerated within the past 2 years; and must be at least 18 years old. Counseling experience and/or other relevant professional experience is not required for volunteers. Rather, the program values individuals who are willing to support and encourage their mentees on a consistent basis. Regular mentor meetings and training sessions are offered.

For more information about the mentor program visit www.voain.org/mentoring. To become a volunteer, contact Latrice Watson at lwatson@voain.org or 317-200-3632. Persons interested in being a mentee can contact Jacqueline Gunn at jgunn@voain.org or 317-910-1096.

Volunteers of America Indiana Inc. is a nonprofit organization that serves individuals throughout the state of Indiana. It provides counseling, rehabilitation, job placement, and residential services. It serves individuals transitioning from the correctional system, the elderly, Veterans, and those dealing with chronic addiction and mental illness.