Peer Support in Jail

Roumaldo Guajardo on Supporting Incarcerated Individuals

The following article is transcribed from a video released by MACC TVCTV and the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. Watch the video below.

MHAAO is a peer-run organization that’s self-directed planning for individuals looking for a change in their life.

I work at the Washington County Jail as a Peer Support Specialist for MHAAO going inside there, meeting people, and helping them come back out and find a way to live and make sure they get their needs met.

When I go to the jail to visit these individuals, I get referrals from the counselors inside. When I visit them I have to build a relationship with them in order for them to feel secure enough for me to help them. It’s not easy. They don’t just trust people they don’t know.

To build this relationship, I have to have similarities that they can relate to. A lot of people I work with are mostly from gang life, or low income, or homeless. I’ve been in those situations so I can relate to those people. When they see me and hear me talk, they know that I’ve got what they have and what they’ve struggled with, so it makes it easier for them to talk and communicate with me, and then I can find out what their needs are.

It’s not all about just being in recovery or trying to survive out there in life. It’s about learning how to have fun. A lot of them don’t know how to have fun and so I like to take them to the movies or take them to the beach and have some walks, or go fishing, or go to the gym and start building an exercise routine. Even some stuff like going grocery shopping, meal planning, budgeting. I try to teach them stuff that can help them learn how to live on their own.


MHAAO offers peer support services through our EVOLVE program, which serves the Tri-County area. Roumaldo does peer support for the Washington County Jail.

Our other peer support programs include Tri-County 911, Providence’s Project Nurture, and the OHSU Impact Team. Follow the links to learn more!

Kaity McCraw