Understanding Desistance from Crime: Emerging Theoretical Directions in Resettlement and Rehabilitation

By Stephen Farrall; Adam Calverley | Go to book overview
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chapter one
Getting to grips with desistance

Desistance from crime: what is it and what do we know about it?
What are the current theories used to explain desistance?
Recent theoretical developments in desistance research
'Rethinking what works with offenders'
Topics for exploration

The purpose of this book is to familiarize the reader with the main preoccupations of research on desistance from crime and the processes associated with it, and to introduce them to new strands of research and theorizing in this field. We do this via summaries of previous theoretical and empirical work, as well as presenting some new data and analyses based on our research into one cohort of ex-offenders whom we have followed for the past seven years. Desistance from crime, that is to say the process of ending a period of involvement in offending behaviour, is something of an enigma in modern criminology. It is the implicit focus of much criminological and criminal justice work and yet is an area that has been relatively neglected in terms of research. However, the last 10 or 20 years have greatly extended what we know about the reasons why people cease offending.

Early forays into the field have led on to more rigorous and sustained efforts at charting the processes and factors associated with desistance (for recent reviews of this literature, see Laub and Sampson, 2001, 2003; Farrall, 2000, 2002; Maruna, 2001). During this time, we have also seen a renewed optimism about the outcomes of probation supervision and the development of the 'What Works' programme in North America and the UK. This book continues, and builds upon, this general work and upon one study in particular. In the late autumn of 1997, researchers started to follow the progress of a small cohort of men and women made subject to probation and combination orders (respectively now community rehabilitation and community punishment and rehabilitation orders). In all, 199 men and women were recruited into the study and, over the next two

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