Credible Messenger Mentoring FAQ’s
What is Credible Messenger Mentoring?
Credible Messenger Mentoring for youth in the juvenile justice system is a transformational process through which individuals from similar backgrounds, especially men and women who were themselves system-involved, engage youth in structured and intentional relationships that help them change their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.
What Youth Benefit from Credible Messenger Mentoring?
Credible Messengers are needed for youth who fit the following profile:
- Chronically involved in the justice system
- Disconnected from positive supports
- Beyond the reach of traditional social services
- Resistant to Change
- Involved in violence
Who is a Credible Messenger?
Credible Messengers are individuals who are able to connect with and motivate the most challenging young people because they:
- Come from the same communities
- Are formerly incarcerated or were involved in the justice system
- Have turned their lives around
- Demonstrate integrity and transformation
- Are skilled and trained in mentoring young people
Is Credible Messenger Mentoring Evidence-Based?
Several evaluations point to the impact that credible messenger mentoring has on reducing recidivism. A 2015 process evaluation of the Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, CA, attributes a 76 percent drop in gun homicides to the work of credible messengers, and high-risk young people who participated in the intensive mentoring intervention avoided being re-arrested on new gun charges. A 2014 evaluation of the South Bronx Community Connections (SBCC) program which used credible messengers as a central strategy demonstrated that program participants were one-third less likely to be re-arrested than their counterparts. The Youth Advocate Programs also utilizes credible messengers and has demonstrated low recidivism rates for youth as an alternative to incarceration. Credible Messengers employed by the ARCHES Transformative Mentoring Intervention use an evidence-based curriculum, Interactive Journaling, for facilitating group sessions.
What Cities Have Invested in Credible Messenger Mentoring?
New York City invested in $10 million over three years in credible messengers through the ARCHES Transformative Mentoring Intervention. The NYC Department of Probation contracted with 19 community-based organizations to hire credible messengers to engage youth in a 6-month mentoring program using the evidence-based Interactive Journaling curriculum. The success of ARCHES led NYC to allocate additional resources to launch credible messenger mentoring at housing developments with high rates of youth violence. As mentioned above, the Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, CA invested in credible messenger mentoring as a strategy to reduce gun violence and improve life outcomes for high-risk youth. Project Kinship in Orange County, CA, trains directly impacted individuals as Community Intervention Workers, and multiple system and community stakeholders in Los Angeles work with Maximum Force Enterprises to deploy credible messengers not only for violence intervention, but for broader peacemaking and community building efforts.
What Training is Available for Credible Messenger Mentors?
Credible Messengers benefit from ongoing training, especially when they engage in the work of mentoring young people. CCFY specializes in training credible messengers, offering a pre-service training suite that includes a 1-day Mentor Orientation, and a 2-day certification in Interactive Journaling. CCFY offers additional in-service trainings for credible messengers on topics such as Group Facilitation Skills, Effective Listening, Court Advocacy, School Advocacy, and others. CCFY also provides technical assistance for system and community stakeholders who want to develop credible messenger mentoring programs. Project Kinship in Orange County, CA, trains directly impacted individuals as Community Intervention Workers using a 14-week curriculum. Maximum Force Enterprises in Los Angeles, CA has a established a Professional Community Intervention Training Institute (PCITI) to equip community intervention workers as peacemakers and community builders.
How Can Credible Messengers Help My Work?
Employing Credible Messengers as mentors can improve outcomes for young people in the juvenile justice system. Specific benefits include:
- Increased youth engagement with programs and services
- Reduction in youth re-arrests, violations, and anti-social behavior
- Increased youth compliance with court mandates
- Improved relationships between system stakeholders and community members
- More community capacity to support system-involved youth.
Where can I find Credible Messengers?
Every community disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system has credible messengers who are actively working to break the cycle of incarceration. Sometimes credible messengers can be found at community-based organizations led by formerly incarcerated individuals, like Exodus Transitional Community in East Harlem, or at agencies that routinely hire credible messengers, like the Osborne Association. There are credible messengers who work for social service agencies, and others who mentor independent of any organization. The Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY) is a good starting point for finding credible messengers, and the Youth Advocate Programs often employ credible messengers. Faith-based organizations are good places to find credible messengers as well. However, the best way to find credible messengers is to ask young people: “Is there anyone from the neighborhood who used to be part of the problem and is now helping young people avoid the mistakes they once made?”