Peer-Mentored Community Reentry Reduces Recidivism

Published date01 April 2020
Date01 April 2020
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2020, Vol. 47, No. 4, April 2020, 437 –456.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2020 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health
The Connection, Inc.
Continuum of Care, Inc.
The Connection, Inc.
University of New Haven
Most people released from incarceration in the criminal justice system return to prison within 3 years. To improve com-
munity reentry, national initiatives have promoted new and revitalized programming, including peer mentorship, though
this approach remains largely unstudied. Fifty-five men participated within a pilot randomized controlled trial investigat-
ing the effect of peer mentorship upon recidivism. Hierarchical binary logistic regression including recidivism risk, as
well as group assignment to either a standard services for community reentry condition or standard services plus peer
mentorship condition, showed that those receiving mentorship had significantly lower recidivism. It appears that peer
AUTHORS’ NOTE: The authors gratefully acknowledge the Connecticut Department of Corrections, and
particularly Dr. Patrick Hynes, for their collaboration in conducting this study. The authors further acknowl-
edge the wonderful support of personnel at The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments, and col-
laboration of Dave Carter, Thomas Slayton, and REACH case managers at The Connection, Inc., and Elsa
Ward and Edward Mattison, J.D., at South Central Peer Services at Continuum of Care, Inc. The authors are
grateful to Craig Bridwell, J.D., and James Farrales, L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W., for their helpful critiques on earlier
versions of this manuscript. Anderson Curtis is now at the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.
Jehan Abdur-Raheem is now at the APT Foundation of New Haven, Connecticut. Cathleen Meaden is now at
Columbus House, Inc., in New Haven, Connecticut. Jacob Hasson is now at Beacon Health Options in
Connecticut. Meredith Emigh-Guy is now at the Criminal Justice Program, Department of Sociology, St.
Joseph’s College of Maine. This paper is dedicated to our colleague and friend, Mark Rogers. This research
was supported by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Administration, Second Chance Act Adult Mentoring
Program, 2014-CY-BX-0004. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dave Sells,
Department of Psychiatry, Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, 319 Peck Street, New Haven,
CT 06513; e-mail:
901562CJBXXX10.1177/0093854820901562Criminal Justice and BehaviorSells et al. / Peer-Mentored Community Reentry Reduces Recidivism
mentorship with a model focus upon early intervention, relationship quality, criminal desistance, social navigation, and
gainful citizenship may promote the complex task of early community reentry. Given this pilot’s small sample, future
research should confirm this association on a larger scale, enabling longitudinal and treatment component analyses
examining the relative contributions of mentorship model factors.
Keywords: recidivism; reentry; peer influence; risk; reintegration; reentry; parole
Recidivism is a common problem among those recently released from criminal incar-
ceration, where research shows an estimated 76% are rearrested within 5 years’ time,
and well over half of those are rearrested within the first year following their release (Durose
et al., 2014). These estimates merit greater concern with the rising volume of prison releases
(U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2017). For example, Carson and Anderson (2016)
reported that in 2015, state and federal prisons released 4,700 more people than in the previ-
ous year, contributing to an estimated annual national reentry population of nearly 700,000
(Sabol et al., 2009). In response to the needs of a growing reentry population, the United
States has invested in federal initiatives to improve transitions from incarceration to com-
munity. These initiatives are represented by the 1999 Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP)
Reentry Partnership Initiative (Taxman et al., 2003), the 2003 OJP Serious and Violent
Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI; Lattimore et al., 2004), the 2006 Prisoner Reentry
Initiative (U.S. Department of Justice, 2017), and through the 2008 Second Chance Act
(SCA; U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2017), reauthorized in 2018. While varied as to
focal intervention, the initiatives have shared an emphasis on interagency collaboration
toward improved reentry outcomes and evaluative rigor.
Nevertheless, research on reentry programming upon recidivism is limited, where gaps
in service implementation imperil the study and outcome of community reentry. Research
suggests that peer mentoring, as highlighted within the 2003 SVORI and ongoing SCA
initiatives, is among the most challenging to implement and often underprovided within
reentry programming (Visher et al., 2007). For example, Gill and Wilson (2017) showed
that client self-reported need-fit was significantly associated with reduced recidivism within
data collected for the SVORI. At the same time, these authorities also found that most cli-
ents did not receive services they expressed needing, noting that among other domains, only
15% of those who reported a high need for mentoring actually received it. In survey results
reported by Visher and colleagues (2007), SVORI program directors identified mentor
recruitment difficulties for reentry programming, limiting research on this promising ser-
vice. In this article, we report on a small pilot randomized controlled trial to evaluate com-
munity reentry programming paired with peer mentoring, focusing upon recidivism
outcomes within a sample of men recently released from criminal incarceration and assessed
as moderate to high risk for criminal re-offense.
Application of peer mentorship is premised on the notion that someone who has navigated
a complex task in the past is uniquely positioned to support and guide another who is facing
a comparable task. Recognition of the value of experiential knowledge and disclosure has

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