November 26, 2021

Corrections Corner / Ed Witulski

Trusted Mentors program continues to change lives for the better

Ed Witulski(This column was written by a person returning from incarceration who took a chance and asked to be matched with a mentor through the Trusted Mentors program, which for more than 17 years has connected and trained volunteer mentors with at-risk adults [mentees] to help keep them housed and out of prison. The column was contributed by Ed Witulski, the Mentors Match Coordinator for Trusted Mentors who is a member of the archdiocese’s Corrections Ministry Advisory Committee. He is also a member of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.)
 

My name is Lisa, and I have had a trusted mentor since January. When I applied to the Trusted Mentors Program, I had just arrived at a women’s work release facility from the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) Women’s Prison. I had been within the IDOC for about nine months, then was sent to work release to complete the last nine months of my sentence. This was my first time ever being involved in the legal system and my first term of incarceration.

Before I got in trouble, I had worked in various positions within the social service and court system realm. So, my experience was only from the outside. I was in a domestic violence situation, which prompted my actions, which then ended up with me being sent to IDOC. Now I have a criminal record. I asked for a mentor because I was in a new city, looking for a job, just came from a prison, and I felt like I had no extra support or friends. My family lived three hours away, and because of COVID they were not even permitted to visit.

I was matched with a wonderful mentor named Terri. I was a little unsure at first if this was something that was going to work. However, after we first talked, I really felt like I could relate to her in many ways. There was not the barrier of a label like I had been given for the last year of being IDOC property and a criminal. I was a person who made a poor choice and had to deal with the consequences. That was the start of the encouragement and support she has given me this time and to this day.

At first, we met about every two weeks and tried to communicate via phone or e-mail weekly. We also had a few outings, which I looked forward to so much because at work release this was a rare opportunity and a privilege. It was also wonderful to have an interaction with someone who believes your past doesn’t define you, and she was always there to talk or if I needed a resource or idea about something. Most of all, she was a friend. I can say that having a mentor has been a positive influence on my life.

I am no longer in the IDOC. I have returned home with my family, and I have a good job. Terri has been there every step of the way and has encouraged me even when things didn’t go as planned or changed, sometimes not for the best. Most of all, I have realized my value as a person, and I know that I am worthy of the best life has to offer. My past doesn’t have to define my future. I strongly recommend to anyone wanting to have a mentor or anyone needing one, to do it, because one person has the power to impact someone’s life for the better.  †

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