Sedgwick County jail starts mentoring program

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County has started a mentoring program aimed at helping jail inmates transition back into the community.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said the new program is designed to help inmates change their thinking to guide their actions in a positive way. Ten inmates recently graduated from the program, the Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1fA0eXp ).

The free program uses community volunteers, such as educators and ministers, to mentor the inmates with support, problem-solving and anger-management. Under the program the inmates meet regularly with their mentors and then continue to meet with the mentors after their release from the jail.

Mario Birch, a Sedgwick County Jail inmate, recently graduated from the program. He said during a recent graduation ceremony that he never had goals before the program. He said he also struggled with drugs and alcohol, but now wants to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

The mentoring program showed him that he should become a counselor. He said the program also helped him and other inmates “be better fathers, be better sons,” Birch said.

“It teaches us to slow our thinking processes down,” to avoid the bad thoughts and the risky ideas and to deal with anger, he said. “The majority of time, we act without thinking. That gets us into the amount of trouble we get into.”

Birch said after he’s released from jail he wants to return only under one circumstance.

“If I do come back here (to the jail),” he said, “it will be to mentor to other inmates.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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