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Straight-Up: (Expanding) Mentoring of Current and Formerly Incarcerated Adults: Key Components of Successful Relationship-Building To Support Positive Change

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2011
25 pages
This study's two intersecting domains of inquiry were the evaluation of how the interaction of service providers with program participants/clients impacted client outcomes, as well as if, how, how much, and when mentoring supports positive outcomes for current or recently incarcerated individuals.
This study found that all of the ex-inmates interviewed who had stayed out of prison for a least 2 years, were meeting multiple measurable criteria of positive self-improvement, and had no rearrests unanimously reported having had a minimum of at least one person who provided positive guidance in a manner that could be described as mentoring. This finding held across the demographic variables of age, gender, and race. The younger men were most likely to report a desire or ability to connect with a mentor or mentor-like individual if they could identify with the person based upon similar personal histories, such as a shared history of incarceration or a history of problematic drug/alcohol abuse. Analysis of the interviews with mentors found that a more frequent sharing of demographic characteristics between male mentors and their mentees was more significant than in cases with female mentors. For within-prison mentoring relationships, mentors interviewed identified factors that influenced the development of a productive relationship. These included institutional influences (rehabilitative vs. punitive environment); the formal role of the mentor (formal mentor, various volunteers, front-line correctional staff, etc.); the persons' intentions within a mentoring relationship; communication style; commitment to a mentoring or mentoring-like relationship; degree of mentor training; and personal temperament. For mentees interviewed, the in-prison factors influencing a mentoring relationship were degree of interest in and capacity for personal change; commitment to a mentoring-type relationship; communication styles; personal needs brought to the relationship; and personal temperament. The study consisted of a series of qualitative field interviews and subsequent data analysis. A 7-item bibliography and tables that outline the study findings