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Mentorship: A Missing Piece to Manage Juvenile Intensive Supervision Programs and Youth Gangs?

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 58 Dated: 2016 Pages: 291-321
Michael Weinrath; Gavin Donatelli; Melanie J. Murchison
Date Published
31 pages

The authors present the results of a research study that sought to determine whether mentorship as an intervention for high-risk gang youth can serve as an effective strategy to reduce recidivism; they describe their research methodology and outcomes.


Intensive supervision probation (ISP) has proven generally ineffective for youth. In this article the authors argue that mentorship, an intervention with increasing empirical support in the literature, is a missing treatment component. They test this proposition with results from the Spotlight Serious Offender Services Unit, an urban-based Canadian ISP program that targets high-risk gang youth. Unique to Spotlight is their adoption of street mentors to work with youth in the community. The authors’ study incorporated quantitative and qualitative approaches: client interviews and researcher observation of street mentors coupled with comparison of recidivism outcomes between a comparison group of high-risk young offenders and Spotlight clients, matched via a propensity score matching (PSM) procedure. Spotlight cases did significantly better than the comparison group on all recidivism outcomes examined. Qualitative interview and observation data supported mentorship efficacy. Given the lack of effectiveness of other ISPs observed in the literature, the authors argue that mentorship makes a difference. Publisher Abstract Provided