Module 1: Getting Started

Module 2: Leadership, Vision and Organizational Culture

Module 3: Collaborative Structure and Joint Ownership

Module 4: Data-Driven Understanding of Local Reentry

Module 5: Targeted Intervention Strategies

Module 6: Screening and Assessmentessment

Module 7: Transition Plan Development

Module 8: Targeted Transition Interventions

Module 9: Self-Evaluation and Sustainability

Section 4:  Incentivizing Program Participation and Support

This section aims to help you understand how to support prosocial behavior through incentivizing program participation and mentoring. Often, the target population for in-jail and community interventions is resistant because of long histories of failed efforts in programs and ambivalence about change.

As Former Deputy Commissioner Kathleen Coughlin of the New York City Department of Corrections notes, incarcerated people have been disappointed numerous times before by the criminal justice and social service systems, and they are both “program-weary” and “program-wary.”

Your recruitment and retention efforts must take into account this resistance to programming, because limited outreach will undoubtedly result in low participation and completion rates.

Research indicates that incentives can motivate people to sign up and complete programs.

In-Jail incentives

Community-Based incentives


Mentoring can help with successful reintegration by providing positive role models to people returning to the community. Ideally, individuals are paired with mentors during custody, with the intent of maintaining the relationship in the community after release. It is important to note that if former offenders are to be considered for this purpose, they must be well past their own criminal issues and have demonstrated consistent prosocial behavior over a significant period of time (generally understood to be a minimum of one-year). 

Though each mentor/mentee relationship is different, a successful mentor will have the following attributes:

Peer mentoring by previously incarcerated individuals or those in recovery who have turned their lives around and have maintained a prosocial lifestyle for an extended period since their offense can also serve an important role in the transition process. In fact, research has found that support from recovering peers may be more effective in reducing recidivism than support from clinical staff or correctional officers.1

You can’t beat the credibility of an ex-offender when trying to show offenders how their lives can be different. They can look a prisoner in the eye and say, “I have been in your shoes.”

—Sheriff Michael Hennessey
San Francisco Sheriff’s Department


Developing a mentoring program takes time, and a training program is required to teach volunteers how to mentor people while they are incarcerated and after release.
Following are a few recommendations:

For more information and examples from the field

1. National Mentoring Partnership: Expanding the World of Quality Mentoring. Mentoring resources and information in the Program Resource section of this website.

2. SAMHSA. 2005. Successful Strategies for Recruiting, Training, and Utilizing Volunteers: A Guide for Faith- and Community-Based Service Providers.

3. San Diego County, CA. San Diego County presentation on Las Colinas Reentry Facility client flow.

4. Fresno County, CA. Fresno County TJC Unit Guidelines and Procedures (incentive structure described therein).


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1 H. K. Wexler, “The Success of Therapeutic Communities for Substance Abusers in American Prisons,” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 27 (1995): 57–66.