The Dynamics of Desistance: Charting Pathways Through Change, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Dynamics of Desistance

Charting Pathways Through Change, 1st Edition

By Deirdre Healy


240 pages

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It is well-established that the majority of youth offenders cease to commit crime in early adulthood, but the mechanisms behind the shift from a criminal to a conventional lifestyle are not fully understood. The Dynamics of Desistance aims to contribute to this nascent area of inquiry by providing a phenomenological account of the psychosocial processes involved in desistance from crime.

Drawing on a variety of methods, including in-depth interviews with repeat offenders and their probation officers, police records and psychometric scores, this book charts the early stages of a journey taken by individuals who exist in the liminal space ‘betwixt and between’ crime and convention. A combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis is used to explore the shifts that occur in desisters’ minds and lives as they make the often turbulent transition to a crime-free life, and the dynamic processes that occur at this psychosocial boundary are described.

The theoretical and practical implications of the findings in this book are explored in relation to key issues in desistance literature, and as such this book provides a key resource for academics and students working with the area of probation, as well as practitioners in involved in probation, social work and parole supervision.


'A de-escalation of offending behaviour illustrates perfectly how desistance is often located between offending and non-offending. But to comprehend how offenders arrive at this ambiguous state may require more than a retrospective study; it may, as Healy herself recognises, be necessary to 'document the process of reform as it happens' (p. 172). If future researchers on desistance take these steps, in Healy's study they have a wonderful resource on which they can build.'Barry Vaughan, Policy Anayst, National Economic and Social Council, Dublin in The Howard Journal Vol 50 No 1. February 2011

'This book is an early contribution to a very welcome series, which aims to support critical debate and discussion around desistance and rehabilitation.'

'…helpful and productive…will be of interest to, and will reward the effort of, a broader range of readers…'

'The author's style of writing is clear and easy to understand and I found her explanation of concepts at the beginning of the book, her detailed account of her findings, clearly related to that early explanation and her pulling together of key issues at the end, to be full of useful detail. She doesn't serve up glib or easy answers, but does provide a rich seam, both of thinking and of evidence…'

-Bernadette Wilkinson KWP, Independent Trainer and Consultant in Criminal Justice

Table of Contents

1. Desistance and Reintegration 2. Issues and Challenges 3. Person and Place 4. Thinking, Attitudes and Social Circumstances 5. Multiple Roads to Desistance 6. Into the Crucible 7. A Catalyst for Change? 8. Looking Forward 9. Betwixt and Between

About the Author

Deirdre Healy is an IRCHSS Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, University College Dublin. She is currently conducting the Crime, Desistance and Reintegration Study which will provide a detailed account of pathways to (and from) desistance, and aims to identify the psychological and social processes involved in these transitions.

About the Series

International Series on Desistance and Rehabilitation

In recent years there has been a dramatic growth in the attention given to the end of the criminal career. Prior to the 1980s, research on why people stopped offending and the processes associated with ‘leaving crime behind’ was a small and embryonic field of research. The literature on reform following a period of offending was patchy and did not constitute in any way, shape or form a body of knowledge which could be considered as ‘key’ to the criminological enterprise. This situation has now changed. The study of desistance in particular has now become an important aspect of the criminological enterprise with several UK and European research studies now focussing on this topic. Further afield (in the US and Australia for example, but certainly not limited to these

countries) there are also a number of scholars who are exploring desistance (and by association rehabilitation and reform) and the processes by which these occur amongst particular communities and for key groups of offenders. This is domain of research is therefore fertile ground for the production of a series of monographs.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology