The program pairs trained volunteers with people drifting in and out of jail or on probation for offenses that don’t qualify for the established accountability courts. The goal is to provide direction to offenders who might need simply a good listener.
“That’s the primary purpose – just to give them alternative options,” said Ted Wiggins, the coordinator of Richmond County’s drug court.
Nancy Robinette is one of 40 people who attended a recent training session that provided an overview of the program and some guidelines for mentoring. Robinette said she knows the value of mentoring after providing love and support to her brother and her nephew during their incarcerations.
The greatest obstacle to her brother’s recovery was his belief that he had no worth, Robinette said. She took him meals every night to encourage him and visited him in prison every weekend. Ultimately, though, it was a jail-cell conversion that changed him.
When he walked out of prison, “you could see that was someone who thought well of himself,” Robinette said.
Volunteer Staten Heard brings his experience from the streets of Kansas City, Kan. He was arrested on a false charge of train robbery when he was teenager. A judge dropped the charge but gave him a stern lecture about his choice in friends.
“That was one of the turning points of my life,” Heard said. “I found I had choices and options.”
Heard changed his direction, earned a college degree and became a manager for General Motors in Detroit. Now semiretired and living in Evans, the grandfather hopes to share his life wisdom through the program.
He said he is impressed by the initiative shown by Wiggins and Superior Court Judge James Blanchard.
“These people saw fit to come together and develop a program that will help,” Heard said. “They saw the system isn’t perfect.”