The program has a “hands up” philosophy that has had some positive results. David Benedict who is an instrumental leader in the program reports that a female ex-offender who had a substance abuse problem was placed in a half-way house to help her not to relapse into her drinking problems. He also shares the story of a male ex-offender who was mentored for a two-year period and who received contact by mail during the final time frame of incarceration at the Harrisonburg Diversion Center in northern Virginia. This gentleman is now self-sufficient and back to his previous job in Williamsburg.
Rev. Warren credits his background in political science with helping him to work with the system. He has a diplomatic way of working with Corrections Officers. He counsels ex-offenders not to miss a meeting with a Parole Officer if at all possible. If they must miss, he stresses the importance of calling rather than being a no show. Rev. Warren will introduce himself to the Parole Officer of one of his mentees as he feels rapport is vital to success.
While Rev. Warren likes the Williamsburg, Va. area, he has strong ties to New York City where he lived for many years. His work in corrections spans five decades. Seeking justice and fair treatment for inmates, he has made his mark on the system. After interviewing a man who had been imprisoned for six months, he learned that the young man had not been before a judge and had not seen a lawyer at any point of his incarceration. There were no formal charges filed and the man was released that same afternoon because of his prompt intervention.
Rev. Warren believes that as a minister you need to be willing to take a stance. Through the years, he has worked with people of diverse political background on moral issues. He takes the scripture found in Matthew 10:6, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as dove,” quite literally. He is at ease with people of diverse backgrounds, which is needed as he is a Caucasian minister serving a congregation that is predominantly a minority. When the occasion calls for it, he can be downright bold. He insisted on going in a padded cell with a violent offender stating that he would be safe with the guard outside the door. The meeting with the man in the cell went well, and he allowed him to pray with him.
On another occasion, Rev. Warren demanded hand cuffs and leg irons be removed from the inmates he was meeting with as the security was outside the door. What they did when he was gone was their business but he would not stand for a person not being treated with dignity in his presence.
An increased level of awareness of the extra difficulties facing women being released from prison is needed according to Rev. Warren. If they have children or are a minority, it becomes that much harder. He is concerned for the plight of women in different walks of life. Just talking to him briefly on the phone, I could tell that he admired his wife who he said could read people and knew him better than he knew himself. He and his wife Eleanor recently celebrated 51 years of marriage.
Treating people with dignity is something that was instilled in Rev. Warren by his mother at a young age. There was a woman who lived near the George Washington Bridge who was Jewish and disadvantaged. His mother helped this woman out as she was going to visit relatives. She told him to always treat people decently and with love even if they were disadvantaged.
This Year's WWTT Mentor's Figures:
More mentors for ex-offenders are needed. There is a great demand at this time for women mentors and also a need for male mentors. Those interested in learning more may contact Rev. Warren at 757-221-0012 or David Benedict at 757-258-5893. Those wanting to donate to a fund for the ex-offenders may contact Williamsburg Baptist Church at 227 Richmond Rd. Williamsburg, Va 23185 or call 757-229-1217. Please make the checks payable to Wiliamsburg Baptist Church and write "Williamsburg Walk the Talk" in the info line at the bottom left on the check. Local people can also assist by having drives for clothing requests, hygiene kits, and phone and bus cards.
Being an example and providing assistance may help a person change for the better. I have exchanged emails with David Benedict, and Jim Ramage, and spoken on the phone with Rev. Warren. In our exchanges, I have felt their warmth and their hope. I think the philosophy that drives Rev. Warren’s perseverance can be summed up in the following encounter. When a woman scornfully asked how Rev. Warren could possibly meet with a convicted murderer to pray with him prior to his execution, he spoke of the people Jesus associated with in the Bible who were in many cases the derelicts of society. If Jesus had the love for everybody, he questioned how he could dare withhold his fellowship to anyone.
– population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan