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New Publication Offers Field-Based Guidance on Mentoring in Reentry

AUGUST 17, 2017

Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded more than $84 million in Second Chance Act (SCA) grants to support the incorporation of mentoring into adult and youth reentry programming. These grants are awarded to community- and faith-based organizations, which play an important role in assisting people as they return to the community from incarceration.

For eight years, The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center has been providing support to these SCA mentoring grantees through the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), a project of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. During that time, the NRRC team has made a few key observations about mentoring as a component of reentry:

  • While the body of research on mentoring youth continues to grow, there are few resources about mentoring adults
  • Many community-based reentry programs that offer mentoring services face challenges when building relationships with local corrections agencies and addressing the unique needs of formerly incarcerated people
  • Reentry programs around the country strongly value learning from each other and seeing how challenges are tackled by similar programs

As a response to these observations, NRRC staff convened an advisory group of mentoring professionals from the reentry field, researchers, corrections officials, and peer mentors—those who have been incarcerated themselves—to develop guidance for the field. Pulling from the advisory group’s knowledge and the experience NRRC staff have gained from working with SCA mentoring grantees, the NRRC produced Mentoring as a Component of Reentry: Practical Considerations from the Field, which was released in June 2017.

The publication presents five broad, field-based considerations for incorporating mentoring into reentry programming. Although this publication focuses on reentry programs that serve adults, the five considerations may be modified to apply to youth programs and were informed by some programs that serve young adults.

Those five considerations are:

  1. Integrating mentoring into the adult reentry program by establishing the roles of mentors, participants, and case managers, recruiting suitable mentors for the program model, matching participants to the appropriate mentors, and incorporating mentoring services into the broader reentry service-delivery model;

  2. Collaborating with corrections, probation, and parole by discussing program goals and services thoroughly with corrections partners, obtaining and understanding corrections agencies’ clearance and background-check policies, being aware of procedures for volunteers and program staff to enter correctional facilities, and clearly defining the responsibilities of corrections, probation, parole, and program staff during the pre- and post-release phases of the reentry program;

  3. Identifying and addressing reentry needs by understanding criminogenic risk and needs, establishing assessment procedures, and identifying and applying approaches that will enhance participant engagement;

  4. Equipping mentors to support reentry goals by training them on skills that will support case management objectives, address participant engagement, promote prosocial attitudes and behaviors, and facilitate relationship building; and

  5. Evaluating mentoring services by using a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures to capture the impact of mentoring services on recidivism and other reentry outcomes, and using findings to improve service delivery, engage stakeholders and funders, and inform decisions to scale up or replicate program models.

A key message in Mentoring as a Component of Reentry is that mentoring cannot stand alone as an intervention for people leaving incarceration. Mentoring should supplement other reentry programming and may potentially enhance engagement in other services.

The NRRC is now exploring specific reentry mentoring topics in more depth, including training mentors for reentry programs, measuring the impact of mentoring, improving post-release program engagement, and incorporating those who have been directly impacted by incarceration as mentors and drawing on their experience in the development of programming and training.

Subscribe to receive more information on reentry.

Ronin A. Davis, LMSW, is the Community Initiatives Program Manager at The Council of State Governments Justice Center. Learn more about The Council of State Governments Justice Center here.

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