The Challenges of a Second Chance: Exploring the Role of Social Support among Females who were Previously Incarcerated




Cantu, Katherine
Andrews, Alita R.
Chhetri, Shlesma
Spence-Almaguer, Emily MSW, PhD
Rohr, Danielle


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Objective: The incarceration rate for women in the United States has increased by 31% in the last decade (Minton, 2012). Community reentry following incarceration is a complex process, leading to approximately 45% of women recidivating (Brown, 2010). Upon release, women are in need of comprehensive services including empowerment programs with opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency (Richie, 2001). However, studies show providing housing, employment and treatment alone are not sufficient in addressing recidivism, fortifying the need for additional support systems (Adritti & Few, 2008; Makarios, Steiner, & Travis, 2010). The Second Chance Mentoring program (SCM) coordinated by Family Pathfinders of Tarrant County provides re-entry mentoring services for formerly incarcerated females. Volunteer mentors focus on providing support during this integral transition. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of the social support triangular relationship between mentors, mentees, and the SCM staff members. Methods: This study utilized a mixed method design using secondary data from 58 women enrolled in the SCM program between 2010-2015. Individual case notes, risk scores, and data related to recidivism were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods. Textual data were coded using content analysis procedures to investigate key themes from progress notes. Data associated with recidivism were analyzed using SPSS. Qualitative and quantitative findings were triangulated in iterative cycles to develop an understanding of variable/theme interactions. Results: Using the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), the level of family/social support and their attitudes towards crime reflect that 44.6% of the participants reported low social support with criminal activity, 37.5% had moderate levels of social support, and 18% had high social support with criminal activity. Additionally, ORAS yielded a score based on peer associations and their attitudes towards crime, resulting in: 53.8% with high peer association risk, 46.2% of moderate risk, none of the sample had positive associations. Through qualitative data analysis, the triangular relationship between the participants, mentors, and staff members was examined to assess supportive influences associated with varying levels of risks and needs. Conclusion: The results indicate that the triangular relationship serves an important role in addressing the needs of reintegrating women, and staff members provide a strong scaffolding influence. Navigating a complex system of internal and external barriers requires both strong social support and tangible resources.