Governor Wants Mentors for Parolees

by on June 29, 2011

in criminal courts

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is doing something fairly progressive—he has announced a faith based mentoring program for parolees as they leave prison. Called Out4Life, the program seeks to match former inmates with role models within the community in an effort to drive down recidivism rates and provide support for those recently released.

He announced this week that the program would need 5,000 volunteers each year to make the program a success—quite the lofty request considering the stigma attached to former inmates.

According to the Kansas City Star, Out4Life has already been adopted in 12 other states, though it isn’t clear if those states have been able to keep up with the sheer volume of paroled inmates. The program was created by the Prison Fellowship, a Christian organization.

The governor is calling on local businesses and churches to join in in supporting the program, which is to be funded mostly by the state. The idea is that the program will save expenses in the long run, reducing recidivism and the cost of re-incarcerating offenders for parole violations or new crimes. The current recidivism rate in Kansas sends 40% of those released from prison back to prison within 3 years.

Critics are concerned that the program will push Christianity on parolees when what they need is a secular support system that respects their current beliefs without trying to sell the gospel. Pat Nolan, a vice president with the Prison Fellowship, states “We give them the goodness of the gospel,” without requiring they adhere to Christianity to take advantage of the benefits of the program.

Other groups already within the community plan on assisting with the implementation of the new program. The Gracious Promise Foundation has been assisting inmates in a similar manner throughout Wyandotte and Johnson counties for several years and sees that its knowledge of community contacts could assist in the recruitment of mentors.

Critics do have a valid point—what about the parolees who are not Christian and do not want to hear the “goodness of the gospel” as they try to put their life on track. No doubt there are many cases of successful transitions among inmates who do not practice Christianity and so these teachings perhaps shouldn’t be a requirement (or even present) when trying to get help.

Of course they say their adherence to Christian principles is not “required” to take part of the benefits of the program, but the presence of those principles could steer some parolees away from the program altogether.

Community support for parolees and even probationers is essential in keeping them from reoffending. Without the proper resources, there’s no incentive to stay crime-free and out of jail. But for many, probation offers the chance to serve a sentence without jail time and without all of the headaches that go along with being in custody.

If you’re facing criminal charges and are curious about your options. Or if you are facing a probation revocation hearing, I may be able to help. Contact me today for a consultation on your case.

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