Department of Juvenile Justice launches new Credible Messengers mentoring initiative

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice say South Carolina is now the first state to launch a new mentoring initiative.

Mack McGhee with the DJJ says a new mentoring program called “Credible Messengers” will allow the young men at their facility to have daily interactions with mentors who have previously been in prison or detained themselves.

McGhee reports that  the initiative was successful in other cities like New York, saying the program brought on “not just the lack of fighting, and the lack of violence and the lack of drugs and the lack of contraband but the presence of education and restorative justice and healing.”

Executive director for DJJ Eden Hendrick, says the mentors will be paid contract employees and will enhance DJJ’s existing staff.

“Who else will be a better messenger than people that youth can relate to? They’ve been through very similar life experiences. And they’ve come and they’ve risen above it and they’ve found redemption. And I think these are the best people to lead these youth through this,” Hendrick says.

Three young men at DJJ say they believe time with the mentors will make a positive impact on their futures. They say they also want to encourage other young people in the community.

“Change for the better. Don’t worry about what nobody got to say about you. Don’t worry about what nobody thinks about you. Change for the better for yourself because at the end of the day you only have one life to live,” says Craig Legg.

“Distance yourself from people who don’t want to help you, that doesn’t want to see you do good. Because at the end of the day it’s going to be you in front of that judge or fighting for your life. I know I’ve been through that. So please take my advice and take the olive branch I’m extending y’all. Life is real and you only get one shot,” says Donnie Davis.

“And most importantly be the message. Be the message for whoever you love — whoever you want to encourage to change,” says Reginald Young.

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