On the afternoon of October 17, 2017 there was a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice sponsored by the Pinkerton Foundation. It was called “Part 1: Credible Messenger Mentoring.”

Mentoring is something that I advocate in my book In the Matter of Edwin Potter. In this case the mentors are those who have been incarcerated and can offer their experience to help “at risk” youth – AND IT WORKS. We don’t get to say that too often in the world of criminal justice, but what is this? We are going to hire thugs to work with our children? Well, let’s not put it quite that way. These mentors have experience that no one else has and can help. So, a rap sheet is the resume for getting the job? This is wrong. The reason why they went to prison is because they themselves did not have someone there to tell them to stay away from the situation. And now they are paying for it – with the remainder of their lives. This, too, is wrong. They served their time, now let’s get them back into the community because it is a community issue.

So, who is going to hire them? It is too much of a risk. Let me tell you about risk. Put in support systems AS FOR ANY OTHER EMPLOYEE: substance abuse counseling, psychological support, etc. These are in place in much of corporate America now. And there should be a balance in the community: If we need more cops, then we need more mentors.

Who is going to pay for this? There are big financial benefits by keeping people out of prison. This should offset at least some of the cost.

But let’s not marginalize the mentors now that they are contributing to society by fighting on the front lines. They, too, have dreams in life, and we should not encourage the media image of becoming a rapper or a basketball player. There is a bigger world out there.

Part 2 of this topic is scheduled for April 19, 2018 at John Jay.