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

By Stephen Farrall; Adam Calverley | Go to book overview

chapter five
The emotional trajectories of desistance

Getting emotional
The emotional trajectories of desistance
The first phase: early hopes
The intermediate phase
The penultimate phase
The final phase: 'normalcy'

It's been emotional

(Vinnie Jones as Big Chris, Lock, Stock and
Two Smoking Barrels, 1998, Guy Ritchie)

Crime and emotions are closely associated with each other. This is evident through only the briefest of exposure to discussions on the subject that take place daily in the media and other forums of public debate. Typically, you can expect to hear of the 'anger', 'disgust' and 'pain' of the victims involved or the 'remorse', 'shame', 'bitterness' or 'contempt' of offenders, along with the 'resentment', 'fear' and 'mistrust' of the public or the 'pleasure', 'sorrow', 'sympathy' or 'regret' of the authorities.

These emotions are more than just adjectives used to punctuate the script of the unfolding 'drama'. They are intrinsic to crime and the processes of the sanctions that deal with it. For example, a person may commit an 'expressive' crime because they feel angry at their relative disadvantage or inability to escape an aversive situation (Agnew, 1985), or because they seek the associated feelings of excitement (Katz, 1988); once convicted they may feel shame (Braithwaite, 1989). The offender has to deal with the emotions of others too. The justice process takes place within an environment where 'emotions … are an important structuring dynamic of criminal justice and punishment' (de Haan and Loader, 2002: 250), affecting the formulation and execution of penal policy, social control and the general social censure of crime. It is unlikely that perpetrators of crime are unaware of such emotional and moral overtones.

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