What’s so great about peer support?

Dr. Robin LaBarbera
5 min readMar 18, 2022

Research suggests that lived experience is key.

Over 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons each year in the United States (Brown-Graham et al., 2022). Two-thirds are rearrested within three years of their release, and nearly 50% are reincarcerated.

Planning for reentry and community reintegration requires that formerly incarcerated adults take responsibility for finding stable housing and employment, mental health and substance use treatment, and transportation. “The majority of incarcerated adults are unsuccessful at connecting to such services” say researchers Gonzalez et al., (2019).

This leads to a high degree of instability, frequent relapse on illicit drugs, increased mortality from drug overdose and other causes, homelessness, and high recidivism rates.

2 ways peer support helps with reentry success.

Human service providers are looking for practical ways to build practices that improve participant outcomes, and many recognize the value of “social capital,” or the value that arises from relationships with supportive others.

“Developing trusting peer relationships based on shared experiences can be empowering and help to build social capital” (Brown-Graham et al., 2022).

“When these relationships do exist, they can be very valuable in helping individuals prepare for and succeed in reentry, such as through reducing their risk of recidivism and poverty and improving their well-being and employment prospects, leading to healthier, safer, and more productive communities” (ASPE, 2020, p. 1).

Two major ways that peer support can help with reentry include:

(1) Finding stable housing and employment

(2) Accessing mental health and substance use treatment

Together, these supports ultimately contribute to well-being and impact recidivism rates.

When supports like assistance with housing and employment and accessing mental health and substance use treatment are in place, we are more likely to see human flourishing among returning citizens.

Dr. Robin LaBarbera

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