For over a decade, community-based organizations have called for the expansion of peer-based services in the criminal justice system, as it has become common practice in the behavioral health field. However, efforts to employ peer mentors for individuals reentering society after periods of incarceration have been stalled in part because of a lack of evidence that peer mentorship reduces the risk that people will reoffend.
Researchers at The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice have now provided that evidence. In conjunction with Yale University, we conducted a study in which peer mentors were randomly assigned to men in the agency’s Re-Entry Assisted Community Housing (REACH) residential program. The REACH program is community-based housing for people recently released from prison.
We compared the recidivism rates of those who received a mentor versus those who received standard services only. Our mentors, successful community members who had histories of incarceration, met at least weekly with REACH clients in their homes. The mentors served as living, breathing examples of recovery for our clients.
We found that clients receiving peer mentorship were 50% less likely to reoffend than those receiving standard services alone. This is a startling contrast, and one that demonstrates the value of lived experience in a way that had never previously been supported by research.
The study was funded by the Federal Department of Justice Second Chance Act. To read the full study, you can access it online here.
If you are interested in partnering with The Connection Institute for Innovative Practice to replicate this work at your own organization, please contact Jessica Smith, Deputy Chief of Business Development at 860-343-5500 x.1125.