STAND UP

Oldest Living Jail Inmate Mentor
RED! Interviews Bob Barnhardt


by Sandy Hobbs
March 2008

 

Bob Barnhardt is an 85-year-old former combat pilot with the United States Army Air Corp during WWII and a retired engineer with Proctor and Gamble. He has been married to Margaret Barnhart for 65 years. Bob is possibly the oldest living mentor of a jail inmate in the country.

In a recent interview, Bob Barnhardt had the following to say about his mentoring experiences:


Bob, how did you get involved in the mentor program?

I have a friend named Burr Robinson who had also retired from Proctor and Gamble. He invited me to his newly founded “Jobs Plus Program” for inmates. This program assists inmates in finding employment upon release from incarceration.  While I was observing, I was asked if I would like to be a mentor to an inmate.  I said sure “sign me up.”


What kind of training if any did you have for mentoring?

Well basically I was told that I needed to be a positive role model and to teach the incarcerated person how to be a successful part of society and to talk to them about the problem/s that got them into trouble. Also I need to be there to listen to them about their problems. And to be the person that guides them into a positive life that is successful which includes steady employment and an honest living.


The inmates that receive mentors, are they usually non-violent offenders?

Yes, they are usually incarcerated at River city or Queens Gate, which are non-violent offenders. And these inmates really want to change and ask for help. They want a mentor to guide them.


How long have you been doing this? And how did you meet the person you mentored?

Well, I have actually been doing this almost a year and half. I met my young man at River City. He was chosen for me. I did not get to pick whom I wanted; the Staff at River City selected him. My young man was Logan. He is thirty-one years old. Logan is married and has one child.


So tell me a little about Logan.

Logan is a young man who was born into a very dysfunctional family. From the time Logan was born all he knew was drugs and alcohol. Logan had to learn to survive by stealing. When he was thirteen he was arrested for stealing a car and did four years in juvenile detention. Logan has been in and out of detention centers all his life.


What does a mentor do?

A mentor is a person that is there to listen and guide and teach the person how to be a functioning part of society. Many of these people have no clue what it means to have a real job. So I am there to help them and teach them how to function outside of prison doors. You can say that I am a twist of a counselor and confidante.


Did you and Logan correspond with letters and telephone calls?

We did send letters back and forth a lot. Logan would write about getting out of jail and also how much he wanted to straighten his life out. But most of all he wanted to know how to get on the right track and to stay out of the judicial system. When we were able to talk on the phone he would make sure that I was checking on his family. Logan was very concerned about his wife and child. When the time grew near for Logan to go before the Parole board we would talk about how he should present himself. This was very important for his release. Logan knew in order for his release he had to be rehabilitated and be sincere about his past. We spoke in depth on the phone about this and Logan was successful at the Parole Hearing.


How much time is/was Logan serving? And how long did you work with him?

Logan was serving fourteen months at River City and Queens Gate and he did serve his whole sentence because he violated his probation. I worked with Logan the whole time.


What kind of education does Logan have?

Logan received his GED while he was incarcerated.


How is/was your relationship with Logan?

Oh, Logan was very willing to listen and was very grateful for my help. Logan is a very gifted man and really wants to make it in society. He wants to make an honest living and from what I have seen him do he should not have any problems. Logan is a very gifted mechanic and also is gifted with painting vehicles. Logan’s wife even speaks to my wife Marg about assisting Logan with problems. So I guess Marg is also a mentor to women.


Does Logan have a job at this time?

Absolutely, with the help of the “Jobs Plus Program” he was able to get a wonderful job as a mechanic, starting pay was $15.00 an hour. When the boss heard that Logan could also paint vehicles he had him paint his personal truck. After the boss saw the results he bumped his pay up to $21.00 an hour.


Do you see Logan as a success story?

Yes, I do. I think Logan can make it if he stays on the right road. At this time he is a free man and I hope and pray that he does not turn to the life of crime again. His family needs him and I personally know that Logan is a gifted man and he is capable of an honest living.


Are you going to stay in touch with Logan and his family?

Yes, my wife and I hope so. We really think a lot of Logan. Besides that I need him to work on my car. I would like to keep in touch with Logan; its hard to just forget about all the time I spent mentoring him.


Will you mentor another inmate soon? Were you asked to mentor other inmates?

Yes, I was asked if I would like another inmate to mentor but at this time I am mentoring some young adults with financial issues. So maybe when I am finished with this project. My wife and I enjoy helping people so we will see what happens next. God willing I will be back at soon.

 

Jennifer Williams

Bob and Margaret Barnhardt