Being able to have people sit back and listen to you is a great feeling. To be able to have murders, rapist, child molesters, thieves, violent gang members, Billionaire Ceo’s and drug dealers listen to you is a GIFT. One of the most challenging aspects of being a prison mentor is not judging the incarcerated individuals your around all day long and who you mentor. There are crimes even convicts deem unacceptable and will not talk or be around certain inmates due to what they are incarcerated for. My job isn’t to judge that’s the courts decision. My job is to help improve peoples lives. The following are 4 very important factors in being a great prison mentor that I have mastered over the 15 years of mentoring inmates:
Active listening is a most basic mentoring skill. When you listen well you demonstrate to the person or people your mentoring that their concerns are being heard and understood. When talking with harden criminals you must appear to be genuinely interested by making encouraging responses such as ” Hmm and Interesting” Or sometimes reflecting back
(Paraphrasing certain comments) or show you’ve grasped the meaning and feelings behind their conversations.
#2. BUILDING TRUST!
The more a convict trust you, the more committed they’ll be to having a mentoring partnership with you. And the mentoring relationship will be more effective. Trust develops over time like with any relationship. With building trust in my mentorship with inmates I do the following which has worked for many years:
*Keep all conversations shared to myself.* I will never say a inmates full name when I blog.
*Spend appropriate time with each inmate in my mentorship.
*Respect their boundaries.
*Always admit when I’m wrong and take responsibilities for correcting any and all mistakes.
Encouragement is the most valued mentoring skill. Recognition and sincere positive verbal feedback is very much needed in this Unrealistic environment. Effective mentoring encourages inmates, which will increase their confidence and enable them to develop into positive human beings. I try and always point out positive traits, praise them privately, talk positive about all inmates in front of the class and express gratitude when need be.
#4. IDENTIFYING GOALS AND CURRENT REALITY!
All prison mentors and inmates should have a personal vision, specific goals and a good grasp on their current reality. As a prison mentor, one must be clear and talk to their group of mentee’s or people in their mentorship about their personal goals, dreams, vision of their current and future life and goals. The inmates will be very much interested in how the mentor can help them reach goals and change their lives. A good prison mentor has to know all of the inmates he/she mentors strengths, limitations and weaknesses. I do my best in helping the men that sign up for my mentorship. Also before I allow inmates into my program. I make sure I tell each and every last one of them that before they ask me for help they should know what they really want to change in their lives and also be willing to let me help them change their lives.