Student Mentors of Incarcerated Persons: Contribution of a Mentoring Program for Incarcerated Persons

AuthorUri Timor,Ronit Peled-Laskov,Etty Golan
Published date01 February 2023
Date01 February 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2023, Vol. 34(1) 65 –87
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034221130037
Student Mentors of
Incarcerated Persons:
Contribution of a Mentoring
Program for Incarcerated
Uri Timor1, Ronit Peled-Laskov2, and Etty Golan2
This study evaluates the impact of a student program for mentoring incarcerated
persons. Mentoring has multiple goals for both incarcerated persons and mentors;
this article focuses on its contributions to incarcerated persons. The program
encourages incarcerated persons to think positively and constructively, apply anger
management, and learn about the normative society they will enter. Twenty-one
incarcerated persons participated in semi-structured in-depth interviews in this
qualitative research. The findings show that the students eventually became significant
others for the incarcerated persons, most of whom reported on forming excellent
relations with the students, and learning to act more deliberately and less violently
due to the students. They also described reducing their self-absorption, expanding
their horizons, and better understanding their criminal choices. Some mentioned
acquiring more structured worldviews and improving their behavior. The findings
point to significant benefits gained from the incarcerated person–student interaction
in the mentoring framework, and the importance of expanding the program.
prisoners, mentoring program, students mentors, rehabilitation
1Department of Criminology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel
2Department of Criminology, Ashkelon Academic College, Israel
Corresponding Author:
Dr. Ronit Peled-Laskov, Senior Lecturer, Department of Criminology, Ashkelon Academic College, Ben
Tzvi 12, Ashkelon, 78211, Israel.
1130037CJPXXX10.1177/08874034221130037Criminal Justice Policy ReviewTimor et al.
66 Criminal Justice Policy Review 34(1)
They do not regard you as a prisoner, but as an equal. They believe in you, and you want
to improve.
—Interviewee 19, Eshel Prison
There has been a significant expansion of personal mentoring programs for youth and
adults with behavioral problems, including those exhibiting criminal and violent
behavior over the past 20 years (e.g., Brown & Ross, 2010; Buck, 2019; DuBois &
Karcher, 2005; Nixon, 2020). Research studies examining the effect of mentoring on
the perceptions and behavior of the mentees found that there was generally a consider-
able positive impact when the program was well-organized, conducted in a consistent
manner, and closely guided (e.g., Laniado & Timor, 2015; Tolan et al., 2013).
Concomitantly, the mentors derived a wide range of benefits from their activities with
the mentees (Beltman & Schaeben, 2012; Kennett & Lomas, 2015).
Bar-Ilan University and Ashkelon Academic College have been engaged in a men-
toring program for male incarcerated persons in six prisons, three in the center and
three in the south of Israel for about 30 years. Approximately 40 male and female
criminology students in the final year of their bachelor’s degree studies visit prisons
once a week throughout the academic year to act as mentors to incarcerated persons
(approximately 150 incarcerated persons every year). They are trained to serve as
mentors for inmates in special courses at the university, where they focus on the lives
of inmates in the prison, their difficulties, their functioning, the rehabilitation pro-
grams in the prison, and their relationships with the wardens. It is worth noting that
this structured program, in which students mentor incarcerated persons in Israel every
year on a regular basis, is the only one of its kind in Israel.
This study was conducted by three criminologists engaged in teaching and guiding
students who served as mentors for incarcerated persons. Its purpose is to examine the
contribution of the mentoring activity according to the incarcerated persons’ opinions,
including the effect of the program on incarcerated persons’ perceptions, attitudes, and
behavior. The assumption is that the program can make a significant contribution to
changing incarcerated persons’ worldview and perhaps reducing their criminal behavior.
We made efforts to ensure that the role of the students was confined to mentoring and that
they did not duplicate the work of the prison staff. Participation in this independent men-
toring program is naturally not linked to sentence planning or release prospects, and incar-
cerated person participation or otherwise in the program is voluntary and without
prejudice. However, the Release Committee does receive an expert opinion on the incar-
cerated person’s general conduct in prison, and participation in the program is the out-
come of the overall impression gained on the incarcerated person’s positive functioning.
Contribution of Mentoring Programs
Mentoring has been defined as a “one-to-one lenient relationship. An individual (men-
tor) gives time to support and encourage another (mentee)” (Her Majesty’s Prison and

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