Local inmate mentorship program wins service award

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From left to right: David Benedict, John Kuplinski (CCCJB Chairman), Jim Ramage, Tony Griffin, Patty Kipps, John Greenman, Doris Fortney and Rachel Miller-Koob. (Courtesy VPRJ)
From left to right: David Benedict, John Kuplinski (CCCJB Chairman), Jim Ramage, Tony Griffin, Patty Kipps, John Greenman, Doris Fortney and Rachel Miller-Koob. (Courtesy VPRJ)

A local volunteer group working to rehabilitate former inmates recently received a certificate of appreciation from the Colonial Community Criminal Justice Board (CCCJB).

The CCCJB awarded Williamsburg Walks the Talk with a certificate of appreciation at its quarterly meeting on Aug. 1. The certificate was a token of thanks for their 12 years of service to citizens re-entering the community from jails or prisons.

According to a news release from Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, Walk the Talk volunteers mentor inmates while in jail, assist them with planning for release, provide them with transportation to appointments on the day of their release, and continue to mentor and support them for months following their release.

Currently, the group is comprised of eight members, both men and women. David Benedict was a founding member of Walk the Talk in 2004 and has been mentoring former inmates ever since. He says the group serves as a vital support system for ex-offenders.

“Our purpose is mainly to be a link to connect the person to resources in the community,” he told WYDaily. “Whether those resources are financial, education, counseling — whatever the person needs to help them get back on their feet and get back in their life.”

The CCCJB certificate noted that the volunteer mentors have contributed thousands of hours of their time in serving hundreds of re-entering citizens and “improved lives while they have improved our local criminal justice system,” the release stated.

“We try to be a positive influence,” Benedict said. “We’re basically a friend who can be there. We’re not paid for this, but we give our time and effort to get them back into the community in a positive way.”