The purpose, role and impact of ‘Through the Gate’ mentoring in the resettlement of prisoners and well-being of their families

  • Anna Clancy

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis synthesises the findings and implications of three empirical research studies undertaken between 2002 and 2017 to examine the role, purpose and impact of mentoring relationships on the desistance journey of male ex-prisoners, with a particular focus upon the importance of ‘through the gate’ continuity of contact upon the outcomes achieved. The third study within this portfolio of research focuses upon Invisible Walls Wales (IWW), a mentoring service for prisoners and their families and expands the emphasis to shed light upon the impact of ‘Whole Family’ mentoring delivered within a multi-agency context on the lives of ex-prisoners, their families and children.

    A review of the available literature is provided regarding the role and purpose of mentoring individuals in the Criminal Justice System, together with research evidencing the impact of the mentoring relationship upon recidivism and the intermediate outcomes achieved on the offender’s desistance journey. Previous research highlighting the impact of family relationships on resettlement outcomes and likelihood of re-offending is also examined, along with a review of the existing literature exploring the impact of mentoring, family interventions and multi-agency support upon prisoners’ families and children.

    Each of the three studies represents a process and impact evaluation utilising a quasi-experimental, mixed methods approach to examine ‘through the gate’ mentoring initiatives received by adult, male prisoners, and in the case of the third study, by their families and children. The findings of the first two studies together indicate that establishing a mentoring relationship prior to release is a key factor in encouraging post release continuity of contact, which effectively bridges the gap between custody and community. Further, ‘through the gate’ mentoring support appears to have had a positive impact upon intermediate outcomes of rehabilitation such as reduced substance misuse, improved accommodation and employment outcomes and is also indicated as a factor in reducing reconviction, particularly where pre-release cognitive behavioural and motivational work has been carried out by professionally trained staff. The third and final study within the portfolio moves beyond a focus on the individual offender to also evidence the impact and effectiveness of a ‘Whole Family’ approach to
    mentoring delivered within a multi-agency context on prisoners’ families and children. Findings indicate unprecedented high levels of sustained, productive ‘through the gate’ contact with all family members and improved outcomes for all recipients, particularly the children, as shown by a reduction in factors linked to the risk of intergenerational offending. Finally, the ‘Whole Family’ approach was also associated with profound shifts in the paternal identity of many prisoner mentees, triggering a strong motivation to change and commitment to family life that was frequently sustained following the prisoner’s release and over the longer-term.

    By comparing the findings of these three studies, this thesis provides new evidence regarding the effectiveness of mentoring delivered within a multi-agency context, both for supporting ex-prisoners to progress on their desistance journey and in improving the lives of their families/significant others in the community. Taken together, these studies offer important implications for policy and practice, indicating that, 1) mentoring, when delivered ‘through the gate’ and incorporating cognitive-motivational support can represent a critical ‘lynchpin’ in the delivery of successful resettlement services, 2) where appropriate, mentoring should take a ‘Whole Family’ approach and be delivered to prisoners and their families/significant others as a holistic unit, and 3) mentoring should be delivered within the framework of a multi-agency service context to effectively meet the wide and
    varied needs of all mentees.

    To conclude, the successful outcomes achieved for prisoners and all family members by the Family Integration Mentors in IWW together with the pro-social shifts achieved in prisoners’ internal narrative, also raise a bigger question regarding the importance of a ‘Whole Family’ approach as representing a core element of all rehabilitation and resettlement work with offenders.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMike Maguire (Supervisor) & Kate Williams (Supervisor)

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