As an intervention mentoring works to reduce the likelihood of re-offending while increasing positive life outcomes such as education, training and employment for those individuals who might otherwise become locked in a cycle of offending.
Over the past year I have visited around 14 prisons across the country and in each have heard about or seen some type of mentor scheme taking place ranging from ones focussed on literacy like Toe-by-Toe to others focussed on housing needs like St Giles Trust.
These schemes, often delivered by agencies outside of the Prison Service, provide an essential and sometimes unique service to thousands of individuals across the CJS. They are essential to reducing re-offending – even the Home Office says so but there’s a problem in finding the evidence to prove it.
Thanks to the Ideas Project, I’ve been working with a Senior Officer at HMP High Down to set up a mentor scheme to help prisoners who have received sentences of less than 12 months (The Lighthouse Mentor Scheme). Even though our primary aim is to help the individuals involved we are not naive to the challenge of measuring and demonstrating the effectiveness of the scheme in a way that both recognises the individualism of the intervention and fits within a more standard framework of measurement to be able to prove our case.
There seems to be an appetite for mentoring as an intervention to become far more embedded across the prison service but the case must be proven beyond the anecdote. The challenge is for all schemes to build a standard framework as well as agree an accessible common language. The RSA Prison Learning Network is particularly keen to explore this further and will be developing a kind of ‘call for action’ in its final report due later this year.