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Impact of Mentorship on Juvenile Offender Recidivism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4299 words Published: 1st Dec 2021

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In 2018, U.S law enforcement agencies estimated that nearly 728,280 juveniles under the age of 18 were arrested (OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book, 20019). Of this population, a 2017 data point released by the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention approximated 71% of the juvenile population arrested were males, while 28% were under the age of 15. (OJJDP National support series bulletin, 2019). However, very little is known about overall current juvenile recidivism rates, as there is no statistical data to be found on the national level.

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Instead, states independently track recidivism and each state’s juvenile justice system differs in operation. This has left substantial gaps in accessible information, making it hard for advocates to ascertain the full extent of juvenile recidivism in the United States. Moreover, eleven states do not track recidivism rates at all, and those that do often rely on limited measurements that don’t account for the various ways juveniles can end up entangled within the justice system.

Although there is little recent data to shed light on recent national recidivism rates, Snyder and Sickmund (2006) found state studies that reported the average re-arrest rate for a juvenile offender within one year of release to be 55%, while reincarnation rates averaged  24%. Additionally, in a longitudinal study of 2,500 juvenile offenders in Texas, researchers found that 85% were arrested again within 5 years of being released (TrInulson, Marquart, Mullings, & Caeti, 2005).

In 2015, the Council of State Governments Justice center (CSG Justice Center) gathered data from the 39 states that do track recidivism in order to make a comparison of the reported state statistics. The study found that juveniles were much more likely than adults to reoffend after release across all states. The highest reported recidivism rate for juvenile offenders was 76% within three years, and 84% within five years.

Upon reaching adulthood, the calculations of recidivism rates are equally high. In 2015, Joseph Doyle, a researcher at MIT, decided to conduct a study in order to discover the rate of adult re-offense for prior juvenile offenders who spent time in a detention facility. Along with a colleague, Doyle analyzed data from 30,000 juvenile offenders over the previous ten years who had been involved in the Illinois juvenile justice system. The study concluded that 40% of juvenile offenders were incarcerated in an adult prison for reoffending by the age of 25. The study also found that juvenile offenders have a very low average of graduating from high school. Consequently, the lack of a high school diploma greatly impeded the types of jobs available to this population and contributed to returning them back to the prison cycle.

In 2011 a report was released by the The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (cite). The report conducted research throughout the United States in regards to juvenile detention and recidivism. Authors of the report postulated that the recidivism data suggested that incarceration in youth corrections facilities is not an effective practice in diverting juvenile offenders away from crime (cite). However, as mentioned previously, not all states track information in a succinct manner.

The report examines the multitude of terms states use to describe recidivism.  The report found that within a two to three-year time period juvenile re-arrests range from 70 to 80 percent. New adjudications/convictions ranged from 38 to 58 percent within two years, and 45 to 72 percent within three years. Return to juvenile custody ranged from 18 to 43 percent within two years, and 26 to 62 percent within three years. (cite) In order to contend with these rates, the report suggests that only juveniles who commit the most serious crimes should be placed in correctional establishments.

In 2007, California and Texas put these statutes in to place.  Within a 4-year time span, the incarceration rates had dropped by 40% in California and 69% in Texas. The report also endorsed the investment in non-residential community programs for offenders considered to be of moderate risk. These endorsements included: evidence-based therapy, career preparation and vocational school exploration, advocate and mentoring programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.

What previous studies show is that there is a need for interventions that will help curtail these high rates of re-offense. Although there are a myriad of ideas on how to combat this issue, one potentially constructive intervention is that of providing a mentor for juveniles; someone who can be a positive influence in the juvenile offender’s life.(Abrams, Mitzel, Nguyen, & Shlonsky, 2014; Duwe & Johnson 2016).

Juvenile Recidivism

The term recidivism, as it is used in reference to delinquency, is described as the tendency of a criminal to reoffend. This can be counted as repeated arrests and reconvictions (Abrams, Mitzel, Nguyen, & Shlonsky, 2014). There are many factors associated with juveniles committing offenses and the likelihood to reoffend. For example, Calley (2012) followed the post release of offenders from a residential treatment facility and distinguished nine specific variables correlated to recidivism.

These predictors of recidivism included: offense type, age at initial involvement in the juvenile justice system, involvement of the child welfare system, parental rights being terminated, criminal history of parents, support of family, program completion status, period of treatment stay and placement upon discharge. Despite the multitude of factors, Calley (2012) found that offense type was the only factor to significantly impact recidivism.

Williams, Lecroy, and Vivian (2014) assessed the probability of recidivism by developing the Recidivism Risk Instrument using a sample of 1,987 juvenile offenders. Through their data, the researchers found that male recidivism was estimated by a younger age at first adjudication, referrals, school suspensions, history of incarceration on the maternal side, use of firearms, running away from home, involvement with gangs, and destruction of property or theft.

Based on cross-validation analyses, the researchers found that offenders identified as high risk (those who were first adjudicated before the age of 14, had more referrals, had more school suspensions, had a maternal history of incarceration, used a firearm against a person, ran away or got kicked out of the home more often, had current gang involvement, and destroyed property or stole more often) reoffended more than five times higher the rate than low-risk offenders.

Leverso, Bielby and Hoelter (2015) examined how cognitive and social factors influenced future criminal activity and evaluated how adolescent’s cognitive development affected these factors over time. Using a group of 14-18 year-old juvenile offenders, the researchers measured outcomes through self-reported crime. Data was collected from 1,088 participants during the first interview and 18-24 months later. The researchers found a significant correlation between impulsiveness and criminal behavior for all age groups studied. Outside factors, including amount of social support and membership in gangs were influencing factors as well. Across a multitude of studies researchers have identified determinants associated with juvenile delinquency and rehabilitative components. However, only a small number have studied the effect that having a positive relationship with a mentor can have on lowering the chance of recidivating.


“The term mentor can be described as process in which an elder volunteers to engage in a relationship with a younger person that serves to assist in his or her personal development. The mentor can work as a role model, as a teacher of social skills and values, and as a counselor” (Weinrath, Donatelli, & Murchison, 2016, p.292). Goals of implementing this dyadic relationship include minimizing risk factors such as: underachievement in school, antisocial behavior, alienation, familial issues, encouraging community participation, and the reinforcement of positive behavior (Abrams, Mitzel, Nguyen, & Shlonsky, 2014). Abrams et al. (2014) also concluded that mentorship gives mentees the opportunity for skills training, occupational networking and support, guidance, personal connection, subjection to positive values, a feeling of self-worth, goals and hope for the future.

Mentoring Programs for Juvenile Offenders

In a study carried out by the aforementioned authors, research was conducted on participants in a Canadian intensive supervision probation (ISP) group entitled: The Spotlight Serious Offender Services Unit; a program encompassing high-risk gang affiliated youth. The program implemented the use of mentors to work with adolescents in the field. This program differed from other programs in that the mentors were not volunteers, but paid corrections employees with training in congnitive behavioral assessment and other assessment techniques.

The mentors were also categorized into members of enthological groups such as African, Canadian, Indigenous and South Asian. Data was collected through both qualitative and quantitative methods. These methods included client interviews, observation of mentors, and contrasting the recidivism outcomes between the participants in the spotlight program and a comparision group.

Findings were favorable in the comparison of reoffenses between the Spotlight group and the control group. The group of youth who did not have a mentor were found to reoffend more frequently and commit more severe crimes (Abrams, Mitzel, Nguyen, & Shlonsky, 2014). Although this study shows promising findings, it would be beneficial  to conduct futher studies on a more diverse population of offenders in the United States. Furthermore, due to the fact that the sample in this study was limited to high risk youth affieliated with gangs, generalizability to the overall population was compromised.

In contrast, Tapia, Alarid, and Enruiqez (2013) had conflicting results when they assessed the recidivism rates of a group of 97 mentored youth compared to 287 non-mentored youth on probation in an urban county primarily consisting of Hispanic residents. Inconsistencies were attributed to the fact that youth who were referred to mentoring had already been found guilty of  technical violations while on probation. Moreover, due to the fact that this research design was quai-experimental in that the groups were not randomly assigned, group differeneces could account for these results. Results may have also been impacted due to the disparity of sample size between the treatment group and control group. Consequently, it would be useful to replicate this studiy using a more diverse pool of participants before the onset of technical violations.

In recent years, Duwe and Johnson (2016) studied the effects of prison visits from community volunteers on offender recidivism rates. Data was gathered froma a sample of 836 offenders released from prisons in Minnesota and volunteers consisting of clergy and mentors. Results concluded that community visits did have an important impact on reducing overall reoffending rates but did not effect revocations due to technical violations. Findings from this study indicate that it would be purdent to conduct this type of study within the juvenile offender population.

As mentioned previously, there is a lack of literature on the overall impact of a positive mentoring relationship on juvenile offenders in the U.S. Some of the studies discussed in this review were conducted in other countries or consisted of a subset of the population, while some studies lacked a control group. Findings displayed a variance of outcomes ranging from statistically significant to negligable.  Due to some positive outcomes in a few of the studies, one can be caueaously optimistic that future studies may show further positive reprocutions.

Overview of Current Study

RQ: What is the difference in recidivism rates among junvenile offenders on probation who participate in a 6 month mentoring program compared to a control group?

Over the years, mentoring programs have been widely studied in community and school-based settings. Between 1970 to 2005, approximately 112 studies were conducted. Findings indicated that academic achievement and social development were improved for those who were mentored compared to their counterparts (DuBois et al., 2011; Tolan et al., 2008). However, much less is known about the relationship between mentors and juveniles on probation. This study will attempt to gain more knowledge on this type of intervention. This author hypothesizes that there will be a statistically significant decrease in recidivism occurrence among the treatment group.



Participants will be selected from a pool of male youth who are currently on probation within the Williamson County Juvenile Justice System in Texas. Ages of the juvenile offenders will range from twelve to seventeen years old. The treatment group will be randomly selected and referred to the mentoring program by their probation officer as a reiquirement of prohbation. A sample size of 384 participants will be needed in order to obtain 95 percent confidence levels on inferential statistics, as well as assuming .05 p-value, 1.96, and five percent error rate.

Selected mentors will be taken from a group of volunteers who are interviewed, pass a background check, make a qualifying score on the Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory (MMPI - a psychological test that assesses personality traits and psychopathology) and complete a 4-hour orientation which will include a PowerPoint presentation on trauma and adverse childhood experience (ACES). Mentors and mentees will fill out a questionnaire of interest in order to be paired together.


This quantitative experimental study will utilize a between-group postest-only control group design to measure outcomes in recidivism rates among youth who participate in the mentoring program and the comparison group.  Recidivism will account for any new arrests or violations to probation encountered while in the program. An independent t-test will be used to compare the post intervention differences in mean scores of recidivism rates between the treatment group and control group.

Procedure and Measures

Participants will be randomly assigned for the treatment group and control group. Mentors will be paired with mentees and required to meet for 2 hours per week for a minimum of 6 months. Coupons for food and tickets for entertainment arenas will be given to the mentors to take mentees out to lunch and partake in social activities. Each relationship may be unique based on the personality traits of the mentor and youth. Apart from spending quality time with the youth and forming a supportive relationship, the mentor will be encouraged to give additional support and guidance with academic, vocational or occupational aspirations if requested by the youth. At the end of the 6 months, instances of re-arrest or violations to probation will be examined.Data will be collected through de-identified secondary data provided by the juvenile agency. 

Proposed Data Analysis and Anticipated Results

An independent t-teset will be used to compare the post intervention differences in mean scores of recidivsm rates between the treatment group and control group. Data will displayed in a table. This author expects to see a a statistically significant decrease in recidivism occurrence among the treatment group.



There are a number of limitations to be discussed in this study. Firstly, there are many variables that can influence the recidivism rate of juveniles. Some of these variables include age, socio-economic status (SES), having a single parent or guardian at home, a family member incarcerated, or lack of positive role-models in general. Moreover, studies have found that those with a lower SES or are impoverished have a tendency to end up on the streets where they are witness to deviant behaviors. (Hagan & McCarthy, 1992; Payne & Brown, 2010).

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Another contributing factor is age of the youth. Some studies have postulated that there is an increase in criminality during the early years of teen hood. (Thornyberry, Krohn, Lizotte, Smith & Tobin, 20). Other studies suggest a rise in offending mid-to late adolescence (Henry, Tolan & Gorman-Smith,2001).  A further limitation to consider is that youth will be court ordered to take part in the mentoring program which could inherently affect the relationship with their mentor and willingness to participate.

Potential Implications

This study aimed to examine if having a mentoring relationship would be effective in lowering the recidivism rates of juveniles. Previous meta-analyses and reviews have discovered that such interventions can be useful. (James et al., 2013; Perkins-Dock, 2001). Evidence also suggests that providing a mentor for high-risk youth can be a constructive approach in reducing the risk of delinquency (Tolan et al., 2008).  Through data gained, the ultimate goal of this study is to add to the limited information known about this intervention in order to promote further reasearch that could effect policy change for more positve outcomes on juvenile recidivsm rates.                                                                                

Future Research

Due to the varied results in studies indicating the efficacy of mentoring, it is clear there is a need for more in depth research regarding this issue. Governmental organizations, such as the OJJDP, should be encouraged to provide funding for additional studies that would utilize randomized control groups and require a more comprehensive analysis of data. Furthermore, a mixed methods approach may also help to gain a more thorough understanding of dynamics within programs and get the perspective of what makes the relationship successful or not from the mentors and mentees.

Future studies could also account for other variables such as age, gender, SES, and frequency or types of crimes committed before participation in the program.  Additionally information could be gathered about the way a juvenile views themselves and their family system. Association with other criminals, educational gains, and occupational status could also shed light on some of the positive outcomes of a mentoring relationship. Previous research on mentoring has considered these factors (DuBois et al., 2002; Tolan et al., 2008). It would also be beneficial to know if the relationship between the mentor and mentee has any pertinence in as it relates to the results, much like a therapist-client relationship (Norcross & Lambert, 2010).  Salience could also be gained from distinguishing if influence is due to  the mentor providing a tangible benefit (i.e., job referrals, tutoring, emotional support) or simply just having someone to recognize the mentee’s mental and emotional well-being (cite).

While some research gives attention on the significance of the adult-youth relationship, there has also been value given to the impact of case management services, referrals and linkages (cite). Additional studies should also investigate the fruitfulness of varying types of mentoring programs. Previous studies have looked at either one-to-one or group mentoring simultaneously or independently (cite). However, due to the dearth in research it is hard to know which techniques or combinations of techniques are most pivotal.

Furthermore, recidivism could be impacted by the length of the mentoring relationship. It is unknown if there is a favorable duration of mentoring that can prevent recidivism; including, the amount of t time spent between the participants in the dyad. Therefore, clarity could be shed on the amount of time necessary to initiate more successful results.  These variables would need to be carefully tracked in order to provide the necessary data to associate with outcomes.

In addition, a more comprehensive study of attributes of participants could be looked at. Former studies have concluded that pairing the adult and youth based on gender, race, or interests contributes to does not have an effect on the mentoring relationship (DuBois et al., 2002). However, juvenile offenders are a distinctive group and greater influence on the mentoring relationship could be  based on the gap of age between participants, gender, or similarity in ethnicity. Contrarily, because mentoring benefits are inconclusive, it may be substantial to look at the characteristics of the youth who gain the most from this type kind of intervention. Variables could include risk-type, gang-affiliated, drug use or other classifications. Due to lack of studies on this topic, there are not enough findings to come to conclusions on these questions.

Collaborating with the juvenile offender population is a complicated and multi-layered affair (Abrams & Snyder, 2010). There are a myriad of considerations that can contribute to the effectiveness of a dyadic mentoring relationship and program (DuBois et al., 2002). The deficiency in diligent or easily duplicated research on mentoring as a modifier of juvenile recidivism plays a role in funding for these programs is to continue at its current level.  Current f data on mentoring programs for high-risk youth in general populations give credence to the idea that mentors and other supportive connection can help youth to prevail over the multitude of challenges they face.  Future research is necessary in order to gain knowledge of the significance of the mentoring relationship.


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Tapia, M., Alarid, L. F., & Enriquez Jr, A. (2013). Court-ordered mentoring programs for adjudicated juveniles: When should youth be referred? Justice Policy Journal, 10(2), 1–18. Retrieved from http://www.cjcj.org/uploads/cjcj/ documents/tapia_and_alarid_fall_ 2013.pdf

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Weinrath, M., Donatelli, G., & Murchison, M. J. (2019). Mentorship: A Missing Piece to Manage Juvenile Intensive Supervision Programs and Youth Gangs? Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 58(3), 291–321. Doi:10.3138/cjccj.2015.E19

Williams, L. R., LeCroy, C. W., & Vivian, J. P. (2014). Assessing risk of recidivism among juvenile offenders: The development and validation of the recidivism risk instrument. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 11(4), 318–327. doi:10.1080/10911359.2014.897100


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