Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice  book cover
1st Edition

Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice

ISBN 9781032336794
Published June 13, 2022 by Routledge
256 Pages

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Book Description

Peer mentoring is an increasingly popular criminal justice intervention in custodial and community settings. Peer mentors are community members, often with lived experiences of criminal justice, who work or volunteer to help people in rehabilitative settings. Despite the growth of peer mentoring internationally, remarkably little research has been done in this field. This book offers the first in-depth analysis of peer mentoring in criminal justice. Drawing upon a rigorous ethnographic study of multiple community organisations in England, it identifies key features of criminal justice peer mentoring. Findings result from interviews with people delivering and using services and observations of practice.

Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice reveals a diverse practice, which can involve one-to-one sessions, group work or more informal leisure activities. Despite diversity, five dominant themes are uncovered. These include Identity, which is deployed to inspire change and elevate knowledge based on lived experiences; Agency, or a sense of self-direction, which emerges through dialogue between peers; Values or core conditions, including caring, listening and taking small steps; Change, which can be a terrifying and difficult struggle, yet can be mediated by mentors; and Power, which is at play within mentoring relationships and within the organisations, contexts and ideologies that surround peer mentoring. Peer mentoring offers mentors a practical opportunity to develop confidence, skills and hope for the future, whilst offering inspiration, care, empathy and practical support to others.

Written in a clear and direct style this book will appeal to students and scholars in criminology, sociology, cultural studies, social theory and those interested in learning about the social effects of peer mentoring.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Introduction: Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice

Chapter 2 The penal voluntary sector, peer mentoring, and desistance from crime

Chapter 3 Theorising peer mentoring as a critical relational practice: pedagogy, identity and collective politicisation

Chapter 4 The research field

Chapter 5 The importance of identity to peer mentoring

Chapter 6 Agency, action and acknowledgement in peer mentoring

Chapter 7 The Values and ‘Core Conditions’ of Peer Mentoring

Chapter 8 The terror, complexity and limits of change

Chapter 9 The hidden power dynamics of peer mentoring

Chapter 10 Conclusion


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Gillian Buck is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Chester. Her research interests include peer led services, criminal justice, youth justice and the voluntary sector. Before working in research and teaching, Gill spent eight years as a Social Worker in a youth offending team.


The criminal justice system has become a dustbin for failed public policy. This book’s in-depth and timely consideration of peer mentoring both extends understanding of a crucial participatory approach to this setting and helps offer practical routes out. A must-read text for both professionals and those on the receiving end of criminal justice.

Peter Beresford, Professor of Citizen Participation, University of Essex and Co-Chair, Shaping Our Lives, the national service user-led organization.

"Peer mentoring in criminal justice has a long history, but a remarkably thin theoretical and research base, considering the rich potential of this work to transform our ideas about criminality and the justice process. Buck’s comprehensive treatment of the subject is exactly what is needed, therefore -- a genuine breakthrough that will become a sort of ‘bible’ for future research in this area."

Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology, Queen’s University Belfast

"Gill Buck’s important new book takes our understanding of mentoring to an entirely new level, exploring not just its relationship with desistance from crime but also its complex, contested and emergent role in criminal justice and its reform. In revealing how mentoring interacts with questions of identity, agency, values, change and power, this book will intrigue, inspire and challenge students, practitioners and scholars of criminal and social justice alike."

Fergus NcNeill, Professor of Criminology & Social Work, University of Glasgow

This book takes us beyond aspirational and fashionable approaches to desistance by making a compelling case - both critically and in practice - for participatory self-determination on the part of those with experience of criminal punishment. In Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice, Gillian Buck retrieves traditions of radical pedagogy and self-help movements to present a contemporary way forward for sustainable recovery from criminalisation.

Mary Corcoran, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Director of programmes in Criminology, Keele University