Mentor Training and Job Description
A Level Ground mentor provides guidance in life skills and decision making to former inmates, with empathy and a nonjudgmental perspective. The mentor does not offer professional therapy or doctrinal religious counseling, but provides a steady reference point while encouraging and supporting the mentee as he rebuilds his life.
Volunteers make a commitment of 6 to 12 months. The mentoring relationship may last for a longer or shorter period. Participation for both the mentor and the mentee is voluntary. It may be ended at any point if either or both decide that the work of the mentoring relationship is complete, or if termination for some other reason becomes appropriate.
Mentors receive 15 hours of intial training prior to being matched with a mentee. Training components include: an introduction to Motivational Interviewing; setting boundaries; trends in criminal thinking and behavior; issues of drug or alcohol addiction and mental illness; and Level Ground protocols covering issues of confidentiality, security, resources, ongoing training and informational reports. A background check is required.
Mentors initiate their relationship with the mentee during several visits to Walker State Prison (transportation provided) prior to the man's release. Throughout the mentoring relationship, ongoing training and consultation at a monthly evening workshop (with dinner) is provided. Mentors report on their weekly mentor-mentee time through an online database.
The mentor spends an hour or two per week with the former inmate, and occasionally some additional time. Mentor attendance and support when the mentee has a court hearing is especially important. At any time the mentor is unavailable - for example, on vacation or due to illness - a Level Ground staff member fills in.
Consultation support is consistently offered to mentors through the Level Ground staff and through therapists and criminal justice professionals associated with the program.
What Does a Mentoring Relationship look like?
Mentors provide a supportive relationship that’s somewhere between a friend and a guidance counselor, distinctly independent from the corrections department. The mentee - mentor relationship is a dynamic one, where the former inmate's solutions and reasons for change are primary.
Mentees initially may be unsure of who this mentoring person is. Should they trust them? Why are they here? Success in mentoring relationships doesn’t just happen, it has to grow.
Here are some qualities of a mentor that allow these relationships to flourish:
- Safe and non-judgmental
- Open, allowing room for the mentee’s own questions, issues and answers
- Respectful of the mentee as an independent person
- Smiles and communicates genuine warmth
- Stays positive, while accepting low-points in the mentee's life
- Has empathy, letting go of judgments to more clearly understand the mentee’s perspective
- Creative and flexible
- Reliable, consistent, and dedicated: often very different from the relationships a former inmate encounters
- Models life skills
These are basic qualities that enable the mentor to build rapport with and gain the trust of his mentee, over time.
Mentors are not expected to have professional counseling skills. Rather, we value volunteers who are willing to share their unique creativity and life experiences in the mentoring relationship.