Do peers raise or lower the odds of reoffending?

Dr. Robin LaBarbera
6 min readMar 14, 2022

According to the prison reentry research, “it depends.”

The United States houses twenty-five percent of the world’s incarcerated population (Taylor & Becker, 2015). To address the scale of mass incarceration, the criminal justice literature has attempted to understand the challenges and methods of assisting recently released offenders to help re-integrate released offenders back into the community.

Recidivism, or the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend, “is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice” (National Institute of Justice). It is measured by criminal acts that result in rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison in the three-year period following the person’s release.

Given the high recidivism rates and harsh struggles that offenders face while reentering the community, research aimed at predicting which factors are related to successful prisoner reentry is in high demand.

Social support may be one of the key influences on recidivism according to several researchers. Peer support and recidivism are connected, for better or worse.

Less likely to recidivate.

In 2014, Cochran examined the relationship between in-prison visitation and recidivism, and found that prisoners who were visited early in their prison term were significantly less likely to recidivate than those who were never visited.

Warner-Robbins and Parsons (2010) conducted research on 315 women recently released from jail or prison who participated in a reentry program that focused on peer support through peer mentors, case managers, peer leaders, and prison chaplains. Women in this program had notably low rates of drug use and criminal justice system involvement.

Other research has found that social support is related to a variety of positive outcomes, such a reduction in depression and anxiety (Iwamoto, Gordon, & Oliveros, 2012) and increases in psychological well-being (Listwan, Colvin, Hanle, & Flannery, 2010).

More likely to recidivate.

It should come as no surprise that peers can also have a negative influence, especially when these relationships…

Dr. Robin LaBarbera

Program evaluation professional helping leaders develop data-driven strategies and plans to maximize community impact. Email me at