Rates of recidivism in Spain are higher for inmates that are released at the end of their prison sentence than for those that are released with a gradual transition to the community. During the EUROCRIM Conference 2018, José Cid presented his research “The Transition From Prison to Community: the Role of Mentoring in Desistance and Reentry”. Afterwards, we asked him some questions about his research. 

What is the research about?

The research is a social experiment about the impact of mentors on desistance and resettlement. In Spain approximately 60 percent of the persons that are serving a prison sentence are released after having served the full sentence with no supervision in the period of transition into the community. The research is focused on these prisoners and provides them with a mentor during the time of one year (four months in prison and eight months in the community). One part of the group, 127 participants, participated without receiving the help of a mentor and the other part of the group, 118 did have a mentor. The results of both groups are compared in the research.

How did you conduct the research?

The research is based on a partnership between the Catalan Ministry of Justice (that granted access to prisons and provided the training of mentors); 8 non-profit organisations (that provided the mentors and one coordinator) and research teams from two universities (University of Barcelona, led by prof. Antonio Andrés-Pueyo) and Autonomous University of Barcelona, led by me), that planned the research, directed the execution of the research and evaluated the results.

We have conducted two follow-up meetings. One after two months in freedom and the second one after eight months in freedom. We have also obtained administrative data on reincarceration in the first year after release. The mentor was also required to write a diary after every mentoring session. We have reviewed these field diaries as well.

What is the difference between a mentor and a probation officer?

The main difference is that this is a voluntary reintegration programme, participants have no obligation and are not rewarded in any way for taking part in the project. The supervision aspect is not present and the mentor is a normal citizen, not a rehabilitation professional. However, some aspects may be similar. The probation officer and the mentor need to create a good bond with the participant and they also have common aims: to promote a desistance narrative and to help with resettlement problems.

What does a mentor do?

Every two weeks, mentors have a meeting with the participants (in the prison or in the community). Both the participant and the mentor need to agree on what the mentor needs to do to promote successful desistance. The mentors receive guidelines. The main principle of the guideline is that the mentor should create a good bond with the participant.

Can the mentors help with desistance from crime?

We think the mentor may have a good influence. He or she is providing voluntary support to another person and this support is aimed at promoting conventionality. Social support theory is a ground for expecting good results regarding mentoring: mentors may reduce the strain of participants, reduce labelling and promote feelings of reciprocity.

What is your most important finding?

We are now evaluating the results. Our preliminary results indicate that participants have increased their desistance narrative and have reduced their offending compared with the participants without mentor. These results are preliminary and should be contrasted in the following months

The research report is not available yet, but is expected in the beginning of 2019.

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