Although the negative consequences of rising incarceration rates have been well-established, criminological research has largely neglected to document psychological, social, and behavioral changes that occur during periods of incarceration. Drawing on an original longitudinal study of long-term French prisoners, this book examines the process of desistance from crime and positive growth in prison. It offers reflections on how personal transformation can be achieved in prison, particularly among individuals serving long prison sentences.
This research investigates the barriers to achieving positive growth in prison, as well as the different ways in which transformation can occur behind bars. It also conceptualizes the process of abandoning crime in prison, and sheds light on the cognitive, social, and structural factors that may trigger, accelerate, or hamper this process. This book explores the circumstances under which individuals can thrive in prison, and identifies key features of the narratives of prisoners who have achieved positive growth. The research presented in this book also examines the intricacies of returning to society after a lengthy period of time in prison.
Written in a clear and accessible style, this book will be invaluable reading for those engaged in studies of criminology and criminal justice, sociology, criminal behavior, prisons, and penology. It is also aimed at a variety of audiences, including academics, practitioners, policy-makers, and prisoners.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction; 2. The French Prison Study; 3. The research participants; 4. The desistance paradigm in criminology and its application to long-term incarceration; 5. Lotus in the mud: a conceptualization of desistance from crime in prison; 6. The barriers to positive growth in prison; 7. Achieving positive growth in prison; 8. The desistance narrative in prison; 9. Life after prison; 10. Conclusion
Lila Kazemian is Associate Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She is a graduate of Université de Montréal in Canada, and she earned the Ph.D. in criminology at the University of Cambridge. She joined the faculty of John Jay College in 2006 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. She has published on the topics of desistance from crime, life-course and criminal career research, prisoner reentry, and comparative criminology. Her work has been published in Criminology & Public Policy, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Punishment & Society, the European Journal of Criminology, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
"The remarkable ability to find hope and meaning in even the bleakest of circumstances is one of humanity’s most astonishing gifts. In this eloquent analysis of post-traumatic growth among long-term prisoners, Kazemian explores the role of redemptive narratives in this crucial survival mechanism."
Shadd Maruna, author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives
"Lila Kazemian’s fascinating book makes a crucial contribution to our fast-developing understanding of desistance and its complex relationship to imprisonment and reintegration. As she recognises, social inequality and punishment exist in a dangerous, unjust and criminogenic symbiosis, yet Kazemian’s careful empirical work shows how and why some people in prison nonetheless find a way to develop and grow, even in the context of the profound adversities created both by long-term imprisonment and by challenging post-release environments and experiences. In so doing, this book provides an invaluable resource to students, scholars, practitioners and survivors of criminal justice."
Fergus McNeill, Professor of Criminology and Social Work at the University of Glasgow
"Strangely, life course scholars have paid little attention to the life course of people living in prison. Now, with this brilliant volume that honors the humanity of its subjects, Lila Kazemian fills this gap in desistance literature. By showing that people can thrive and grow while living in horrific conditions, this wise and rigorous book is simultaneously a tribute to the power of the human spirit and an indictment of penal institutions. By her example, Kazemian invites scholars to bring their skills, theories and voices to join her in shining a spotlight into the black box of prisons. Advocates, researchers, journalists and anyone concerned about human rights should follow her lead."
Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures; President Emeritus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
"Positive Growth and Redemption in Prison seeks to demonstrate the ways in which even long-term prisoners can convert privation and despair into positive change…. (makes) significant contributions to knowledge within prisons sociology… a rallying call for significant and systemic changes in the ways in which we treat people in prison, but within the context of a need to deal with the wider social structures that continue to oppress, marginalise and criminalise ‘others’."
Serena Wright, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, Punishment and Society