Thibodaux Day Reporting Center in Louisiana welcomed local business leaders and community members to offer words of encouragement to reentrants for their Mentor-A-Participant event on April 22. The event was held as part of national Second Chance Month, an awareness initiative highlighting reentry efforts and criminal justice reform.
The mentorship event gave community members an opportunity to learn more about participants’ progress in the reentry program, while participants could enjoy a casual-yet-professional environment to learn from potential employers in the region. The event included mentorship sessions and guest speakers, who imparted wisdom and support to the men and women at the DRC.
“We consider this a win-win for participants and community members,” Thibodaux DRC Program Manager Kaylarge Eloi said. “There are community members with so much knowledge and expertise out there, and our participants are doing the hard work and learning how to reconnect with their communities, hold down jobs, and stay crime-free.”
The DRC opened in December following efforts between the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and GEO Reentry. Thibodaux DRC is one five in the state of Louisiana and offers reentry services five days a week. Participants are enrolled in evidence-based reentry programming for up to 90 days, completing three targeted program phases in addition to aftercare treatment.
The non-residential reentry center uses cognitive behavioral treatment to address criminal thinking and behavior and provides participants with opportunities to connect to providers in the community for resources like housing and employment. With events Mentor-A-Participant, participants benefit from developing relationships in the community that can help them stay on track in their transition once they complete the reentry program.
“You’ve got to have that person who you can reach out and touch that can give you that inspiration when you don’t have it,” South Louisiana Community College Instructor Thomas Dardar said during the Mentor-A-Participant Event, reported the Daily Comet.
“None of your stories are over. When we look at a situation and let it define us, then we are known by those situations. We need to look at our situations as opportunities and show that we are better. We’re not going to be defined by what our past is,” Dardar added.
Participants also had the opportunity to network with potential employers during the event, an opportunity that can have a major impact on their progress and outlook. “[Mentoring] could be for a job, a reference or just encouragement,” Eloi told the Daily Comet. “One of the criminal factors we focus on is anti-social associates. If participants change their associates, they change their outlook on life. It’s so exciting for them. They’re here getting jobs, finishing high school or getting into college.”