Real Men, Real Heroes began mentoring inmates at the maximum-security El Dorado Correctional Facility in 2008 at the request of an inmate who read about the organization in the newspaper. The monthly mentoring sessions are attended by 15 to 40 men each month.
During these sessions, Heroes present the same concepts given to children in schools — messages about responsible manhood and practical life skills that attempt to counter the violent, hyper-sexualized images of black men predominant in the media, impoverished neighborhoods, and prison itself. The El Dorado inmates, appreciative of the mentoring, have financially supported RMRH, whenever possible, with small wages earned within the prison.
What Heroes and the inmates began out of gut instinct has the support of academics who study criminal justice and sociology. In his book, ‘Prisoners Once Removed: Impact of Incarceration and Re-entry on Families, Children and Communities’ (Urban Institute, 2003), researcher Jeremy Travis identifies mentoring by ’mainstream’ black men a successful model for reducing recidivism among inmates and preventing the generation cycle of crime among black men. Given that 1 in 3 black men are likely to be in prison, on probation or parole during their 20s — and that half of all prison inmates are parents — this is an obvious cause of the problem of fatherless boys. (Consider that in Wichita, as in the rest of the nation, 50% of black boys live in homes without fathers.)
Rather than simply write off these fathers as a generation lost, Real Men, Real Heroes is attempting to break the cycle of absentee fathers caused by a shortage of positive male role models by mentoring to both fathers and sons.