Peers help former Delaware inmates ease back into normal life

The transition from prison to life on the outside is difficult for many inmates. Workers at the Peers Mentoring Center in Wilmington are trying to ease that re-entry process.

As the name Peers Mentoring Center suggests, most mentors at this Wilmington facility have had their own run-in’s with the law. That includes John Dooling, who said he spent most of his life shooting heroin, and moving in and out of jail. Now, Dooling works with former drug dealers and others coming out of prison, trying to give them life skills that will improve their chances of staying out of trouble in the future.

“Some of these cats went through some things like been shot, people killed in front of them, and like, that affects you,” Dooling said. He’s using what he’s learned to have success on the outside to help others do the same. “It’s helped me get myself correct … it kind of helped me to raise the bar on myself and challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone and kind of engage people that I normally wouldn’t have.”

He said because of his life experience in the world of drugs and crime, he has a level of credibility when talking to inmates coming out of prison. “That’s my goal, to challenge people to think critically.”

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Delaware Governor John Carney visited the center and watched as clients talked with mentors like Herbert Watkins about how to mentally prepare to succeed. “No matter what goes on in our personal lives, when we come in peers, it’s positive, no matter what’s going on personally,” Watkins said. “We try our best not to allow our personal lives to affect anything because this is sacred.”

“Thank you for making the choice to be here frankly, and to stay out of the streets, and to do the right thing by you and your families,” Carney said. “Our success as a state will depend in large measure on your individual success as individuals, so we wish you well.”

Leaders at the center hope Carney’s visit will result in more funding for their efforts. “We’re going to do it regardless, whether we’re funded or not, we’re trying to help our community, that’s what it’s about.”

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