> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
For those wanting to participate, a mentor relationship is established while the person is still in prison. After release, the match continues for up to a year. During the critical first few months of freedom, mentors phone their wards daily to ensure they aren’t, as Johnson said, “going off the reservation.”
“Most people in prison, even the ones who want to do the right thing, they haven’t got a clue about how to do it or what to do or what speed bumps are out there to trip them up,” Johnson said. “I’ve been doing this 18-plus years, my wife and I, all over the country. So we’ve seen a lot of things that work. We’ve seen some of the things that can trip people up and send them back.”
Finding a job is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when being released from prison. Employers have reservations about hiring felons. Yet without a job, the likelihood of returning to jail increases substantially.
Johnson said recently a volunteer has come on with the organization to compile a database of businesses in the area that are willing to employ program participants.
“We’re in a bad-news business. Most people are going to be crime victims at least once in their lives. They’re angry at the people we’re trying to help,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the criminal justice system and who’s incarcerated in our prisons. Actually, maybe 10 to 15 percent of the prison population is people that we ought to be afraid of. They need to stay right where they are because, short of a miracle, they are not changing.”
But for the many nonviolent offenders seeking re-entry, drug and alcohol addiction remains a problem and can add another obstacle to a successful return if left untreated. Johnson tries to find the root of the problem using Christ’s teachings as well as his all-encompassing love.