Understanding desistance 1 Primary and secondary desistance –When it comes to persistent offenders, secondary desistance is (or should be) the ‘holy grail’ of offender management and resettlement Desistance is a process characterised by ambivalence and vacillation. It is not an event. Desistance may be provoked by aging, by related life events and by developing social bonds, depending on the meaning of those events and bonds for the offender. Desistance may be provoked by someone ‘believing in’ the offender. Hope seems to be an important factor.
Understanding desistance 2 There is an important ongoing debate about whether or not desistance typically involves a change in narrative identities (or self-stories). However, it is likely that some form of narrative reconstruction is necessary for persistent offenders. Desistance seems to involve discovering (or developing) agency – the ability to make choices and govern one’s own life. Persistent offenders tend to be fatalistic. Different forms of capital are significant in the desistance process. Desistance probably requires more than just the development of human capital (capacities); social capital is also critical to the process. This suggests that intervention needs to be about more than sponsoring change within offenders. For many desisters, desistance is about ‘redemption’ or restoration; it often involves finding purpose through ‘generative activities’.
Supporting desistance Interventions need to take account of: –Identity and diversity in the process –Motivation, hope and ambivalence (affects) –The relational contexts of change (personal and professional) –Strengths and resources for overcoming obstacles to desistance (as opposed to risks and needs) –The development of an agentic identity –Social capital (as opposed to human capital) Interventions are part of the process, but the process exists before and beyond them
Think change process first, interventions second ‘Treatment [intervention] was birthed as an adjunct to recovery [change], but, as treatment [intervention] grew in size and status, it defined recovery [change] as an adjunct of itself. The original perspective needs to be recaptured. Treatment [intervention] institutions need to once again become servants of the larger recovery change] process and the community in which that recovery [change] is nested and sustained’ (White 2000, in Maruna et al 2004).
Desistance Case Management Programmes Embedding interventions
A case manager who holds it all together Motivation Capacities (Skills) Opportunities An advocate who helps to develop and deploy social capital An educator who helps to develop and deploy human capital A counsellor who helps to develop and deploy motivation
‘What works’ and desistance The ‘what works’ paradigm (forefronts intervention) The desistance paradigm (forefronts the change process) Intervention or treatment required to reduce re-offending and protect the public Help in navigation towards desistance to reduce harm and make good to offenders, victims and communities ‘Professional’ assessment of risk and need governed by structured assessment instruments Explicit dialogue and negotiation assessing risks, needs and strengths and resources; and exploring opportunities to make good Compulsory engagement in structured programmes and offender management as required elements of legal orders imposed irrespective of consent Collaboratively defined tasks which tackle risks and needs and target obstacles to desistance by developing the offender’s human and social capital (McNeill, 2006)
Conclusion There may be a desistance paradigm, but there can be no desistance programme and no desistance manual But any interventions strategies and practices can and must be embedded in understandings of the change processes that they exist to support And the research can direct planners and practitioners towards the key issues and questions that must be addressed in supporting desistance