Casey Supports National Effort to Grow Credible Messenger Mentoring

Register for launch event on September 17, 2021

Posted September 12, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A Black mentor offers advice to a young man.

Con­sis­tent, car­ing adults in young people’s lives are crit­i­cal for them to thrive through ado­les­cence and into young adult­hood. For young peo­ple involved in the juve­nile jus­tice sys­tem, it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive when those adults have sim­i­lar life expe­ri­ences and are spe­cial­ly trained to help them get on and stay on pos­i­tive paths. These adults — called cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger men­tors — are part of the sup­port net­works of youth in the jus­tice sys­tem in a grow­ing num­ber of places as aware­ness builds that this form of men­tor­ing helps to sup­port youth while also reduc­ing juve­nile delinquency.

As inter­est in cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger men­tor­ing spreads across the coun­try, a nation­al non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion is launch­ing in Sep­tem­ber 2021 to help local efforts suc­ceed and multiply.

The Cred­i­ble Mes­sen­ger Men­tor­ing Move­ment (CM3) aims to estab­lish best prac­tices and help peers learn from each oth­er to hone what works, espe­cial­ly in sup­port of youth who are on pro­ba­tion, in the com­mu­ni­ty as an alter­na­tive to secure deten­tion or return­ing from court-ordered place­ments away from their homes. With com­mu­ni­ty-based and gov­ern­ment part­ners, CM3 will delve into train­ing, coach­ing and com­pen­sat­ing the men­tors and estab­lish­ing effec­tive infra­struc­ture, stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dures, aware­ness and sup­port. The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, along with the Pub­lic Wel­fare Foun­da­tion, the W. Hay­wood Burns Insti­tute and oth­ers, are ear­ly sup­port­ers of the organization.

CM3 rep­re­sents a grow­ing move­ment that acknowl­edges the skill and wis­dom of com­mu­ni­ty part­ners in help­ing juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems address their great­est chal­lenges,” says Steve Bish­op, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. To work effec­tive­ly with youth with the most seri­ous arrest his­to­ries and needs, pro­ba­tion staff will need to lean on com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who are most cred­i­ble to the young peo­ple they hope to reach.”

How do cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger men­tors help young people?

Men­tors share sim­i­lar life expe­ri­ences with young peo­ple involved in the jus­tice sys­tem and are trained to nur­ture and sup­port them. They col­lab­o­rate with oth­er adults in the youths’ lives, such as fam­i­ly mem­bers, cler­gy, pro­ba­tion offi­cers or case man­agers. But they are unique­ly posi­tioned to relate to the youth on a dif­fer­ent — poten­tial­ly more cred­i­ble — lev­el. They set an exam­ple as peo­ple who have over­come their cir­cum­stances to pur­sue ser­vice to their communities.

While this con­cept shares ele­ments with com­mu­ni­ty-based vio­lence pre­ven­tion efforts — such as medi­a­tion, peace­mak­ing and round-the-clock cri­sis inter­ven­tion — its empha­sis is on men­tor­ing young peo­ple and help­ing them nav­i­gate the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties of ado­les­cence and life itself.

The inten­tion is for the men­tors to have a trans­for­ma­tive impact on the indi­vid­ual, fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty and sys­temic lev­els,” says Clin­ton Lacey, the pres­i­dent and CEO of CM3. The men­tors go beyond deesca­lat­ing sit­u­a­tions on the streets to active­ly help­ing young peo­ple build full-fledged life plans that encom­pass hous­ing, health, pos­i­tive out­lets and more.” This often means that the men­tors sup­port not just the young per­son, but their peers, fam­i­ly mem­bers and larg­er sup­port net­works, too.

CM3 is a pub­lic-pri­vate partnership

CM3 works with a select num­ber of juris­dic­tions that serve as demon­stra­tion sites” to devel­op a core set of val­ues, prin­ci­ples and process­es. This includes work­ing close­ly with two pri­ma­ry enti­ties in each juris­dic­tion: anchor insti­tu­tions for the cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger men­tors, which are usu­al­ly com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, and the gov­ern­ment part­ner, which could be the pro­ba­tion agency, juve­nile court, mayor’s office or coun­ty admin­is­tra­tion that helps to fund the effort and facil­i­tates access to youth in the jus­tice sys­tem. CM3 is begin­ning to pro­vide sup­port and tech­ni­cal assis­tance to oth­er juris­dic­tions, while devel­op­ing a nation­al learn­ing com­mu­ni­ty designed to sup­port and nur­ture the cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger movement.

CM3 has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trans­form thou­sands of lives while help­ing to rede­fine jus­tice pol­i­cy as we know it by pro­vid­ing viable, inno­v­a­tive mod­els of heal­ing, restora­tion and empow­er­ment,” Lacey says.

An eval­u­a­tion of cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger mentoring

The Urban Insti­tute eval­u­at­ed the first iter­a­tion of a gov­ern­ment-fund­ed cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger men­tor­ing pro­gram in New York for its effects on future felony con­vic­tions of the young peo­ple it served. The eval­u­a­tion found that par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Arch­es Trans­for­ma­tive Men­tor­ing pro­gram reduced the chances of being con­vict­ed again of a felony with­in a year by over two-thirds, and reduced the chances of being con­vict­ed again of a felony with­in two years by more than half, with espe­cial­ly pro­found effects for the youngest pro­gram par­tic­i­pants. CM3’s mod­el approach builds on the Arch­es Trans­for­ma­tive Men­tor­ing ini­tia­tive and the evo­lu­tion of the Cred­i­ble Mes­sen­ger Ini­tia­tive in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., both pre­vi­ous­ly led by Lacey.

Reg­is­ter for a CM3 pan­el dis­cus­sion fea­tur­ing Casey’s Steve Bishop

CM3 is host­ing a two-day vir­tu­al launch event on Sep­tem­ber 1617, 2021. The first day will high­light the evo­lu­tion of cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger work, and the sec­ond day will con­sid­er broad­er impli­ca­tions of cred­i­ble mes­sen­ger work. 

What: Pan­el dis­cus­sion — Build­ing Com­mu­ni­ty Capac­i­ty by Invest­ing in Cred­i­ble Messengers

When: 4:155:15 p.m. ET on Fri­day, Sept. 172021


  • James Bell, found­ing pres­i­dent, The W. Hay­wood Burns Institute
  • Steve Bish­op, senior asso­ciate, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Can­dace Jones, pres­i­dent, Pub­lic Wel­fare Foundation
  • Karol Mason, pres­i­dent, John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Justice

Reg­is­ter for the CM3 launch event

Relat­ed resources:

Men­tors build mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with youth in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Train­ing for grass­roots orga­ni­za­tions want­i­ng to offer alter­na­tives to incarceration

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