Book review: Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice. International Series on Desistance and Rehabilitation

Date01 March 2021
AuthorHelena Gosling
Published date01 March 2021
Subject MatterBook reviews
Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice. International Series on
Desistance and Rehabilitation
Gillan Buck
Routledge; 2020, pp. 256; £96; hbk
ISBN: 9780367228743
Reviewed by: Helena Gosling, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
As an academic with experience of mentoring men with lived experience of the
criminal justice system I am both personally interested and professionally intrigued
by the work of Dr Gillian Buck. Her dedication to the studyof peer mentoring and its
bearing within an increasingly contested criminal justice system is, without doubt,
noteworthy.As is her passion to create opportunitiesfor subjugated voices to not only
be heard but utilised for change. Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice is a compelling
read given Buck’sability to skilfully grapple with a rangeof complex theoretical ideas
alongside lived experience of peer mentoring to shape and indeed reshape what we
know and understand about this typically under-researched practice. It is a signifi-
cant, forward thinking contribution to the field and must read for those interested in
service user involvement, participatory criminal justice, strengths-based approaches
and personalisation. Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice is the first monograph to
explore mentoring in criminal justice settings by community members who often have
lived experience of the criminal justice system. Drawing upon original ethnographic
data from multiple communitypeer mentoring settings in theNorth of England (as well
as observational data), Buck illustrates how peer mentors employ their sense of
criminalisation, efforts to leave crime behind and other shared life experiences to
inspire,motivate and support their mentees.While simultaneously demonstrating how
peer mentoring can support forms of solidarity and socio-political action focused
upon social injustices related to and caused by criminalisation.
Peer Mentoring in Criminal Justice provides a unique offering to the discipline,
not only enhancing our understanding of peer mentoring but extending what we
know about the role and function of this, under researched and at times, under-
valued practice. Throughout the text Buck highlights how peer mentoring is more
than just a method to support desistance and reduce reoffending. It is a practice that
‘employs identity politics, has features of critical pedagogy, relies upon notions of
fraternity or sorority and potentially politicises people’ (Buck, 2020: 38). It is
therefore, not ‘just about leaving crime behind, it is also a process of learning, a
form of coming together or solidarity and a political social activity’ (p. 38). The
discussion is usefully divided into two substantive parts. The first part provides a
theoretical backdrop to peer mentoring in criminal justice settings, as well as an
introduction to the voluntary sector and critical appraisal of longstanding sentiments
about peer mentoring. For me, as a reviewer, Chapter 3 is the most illuminating and
informative chapter in part 1, exploring how the work of theorists such as Freire,
118 Probation Journal 68(1)

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