During my time in prison I became aware of just how many younger prisoners came from backgrounds where they had had no positive male role models in their lives. Quite a large number had been 'mentored' by local gang members, drug dealers and others whose negative influence had led them into lives of crime, violence and the pursuit of easy money and immediate gratification. Few had completed their secondary education (a few not even their primary schooling) and their future prospects look pretty bleak.
Inside prison, it was sometimes the same... younger lads being used as "joeys" to conceal and distribute contraband or to dish out a beating to a debtor or suspected 'grass'. However, at the same time I was surprised to see that there was a degree of positive mentoring going on with more mature prisoners - often ex-servicemen - doing their best to instil some self-respect and discipline in the younger blokes. I did some mentoring myself and several of the lads I worked with while inside can now read and are holding down jobs after release back into the community. I try to stay in touch with them from time to time.
I think peer mentoring can work wonders if it is properly done. It is something that is much needed in our society. Ideally, it should be available prior to young men getting into the criminal justice system, but it is also needed urgently as part of the process of resettlement as soon as they have been released in order to reduce the risk of re-offending, so the more of these community-based mentoring projects that are set up the better for everyone, including the taxpayer.