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MD Inmates find Hope in Mentorship Program

PHOTO: Michael Perry and Russell Green are former inmates, now they work as mentors with the Friend of a Friend program. Photo Credit: AFSC/Bryan Vana
PHOTO: Michael Perry and Russell Green are former inmates, now they work as mentors with the Friend of a Friend program. Photo Credit: AFSC/Bryan Vana
July 19, 2013

BALTIMORE – It's about turning lives full of chaos and violence into lives of hope and peace.

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, is trying to expand its Friend of a Friend mentorship program into more Maryland prisons, pairing inmates with men who can serve as role models.

It's already active in five prisons, teaching dozens of inmates conflict resolution and relationship and coping skills to help them in and out of jail.

One of the participants was former inmate Michael Perry, who now works as a mentor.

"Violence should be the last recourse,” he says. “You can sit down, collect your breath, compose yourself and hear where another person is at."

Friend of a Friend organizers take a neutral approach to gangs and other groups in the prison system, to help the inmates resolve issues with each other.

Dominique Stevenson, director of the Maryland Justice with Peace Program, says inmates who work with Friend of a Friend mentors have an easier time adjusting to life outside the prison walls, as well.

"It is a form of restorative justice,” she says, “where these men come back out and they really give back. They may have done things in the community, but they're now contributing to the communities that they might have some way harmed or taken things away from."

Friend of a Friend mentors and organizers are also starting to move outside the prison, working with young people to help keep them out of trouble.


Alison Burns, Public News Service - MD