Success! Second Chances for Ex-Offenders Who Want to WORK

Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota’s Second Chance Mentoring program guides men who are recently released from prison through the challenges of transitioning back into the community. The 2-year goal of this program is to provide 100 ex-offenders, who have active child support cases in Ramsey or Hennepin County, services which will decrease the likelihood of their return to prison, increase public safety and ultimately help them prepare to find WORK. Benefits of their work—beyond the dignity it provides to the men—include increasing the tax-payer base and providing child support.

In order to meet the complex needs of this population, our staff creates an individualized plan for each person who wants to work with a Mentor. Five months prior to release, a Case Manager collaborates with the Mentee candidate to create a reentry and fatherhood plan. Thirty days prior to release, the Mentee candidate meets the Mentor Coordinator of the Mentoring Program. The Coordinator gets to know the candidate, determines his needs and any preferred characteristics he may have for a Mentor such as race, age, hobbies, experiences or a prison record. After similar meetings with Mentor candidates, the Coordinator is able to match people she thinks will work well together. The next step is a face-to-face meeting, where expectations are set. Currently, Mentors and Mentees meet biweekly as a larger group and also one-on-one, as their schedules allow. The group has formed a special bond; there is both a sense of community and a space for daily successes to be recognized. It is where anti-social behaviors are managed and “pro-social” behaviors are promoted.

In support of the work of the Mentoring Program, Goodwill/Easter Seals provides other services that help ensure the Mentees’ success. The Case Manager connects Mentees with county child support officers. A therapist from our Working Well Mental Health Clinic provides training that includes the development of alternative behaviors in risky situations; problem-solving; how to reduce antisocial cognition; how to control impulsive behavior; and how to deal with authority figures. Employment Support Consultants help Mentees navigate Goodwill/Easter Seals’ many employment services including resume development, video-taped mock interviews, motivational job clubs, individualized job placement support and skills training.

The outcomes of this program have been remarkable. To date, 59% or 43 of 73 individuals enrolled in the program have secured competitive employment. Of these people, 67% have held their jobs for at least 90 consecutive days.  Recruitment efforts have resulted in 49 Mentors being trained and 40 matches have been made between Mentors and Mentees. Further, the program has gained national recognition, and was selected to present at the Second Chances and Safer Communities conference in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2012.

We are extremely proud of this program and the incredible results that our volunteer Mentors, Mentees and staff have achieved. Their work has enabled a group of men that has numerous and complex barriers to success work through challenges, improve their lives and in many cases move forward in the world of WORK.

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