1st Edition

The Unmaking of Crime Contexts, Pathways and Representations of the Processes of Desistance on the Parisian Ground

By Valerian Benazeth Copyright 2025
    360 Pages 25 Color & 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Unmaking of Crime documents the pathways of offenders reforming their journey and desisting from crime, and assesses the opportunities and limitations of the criminal justice system in aiding this process. Building from known factors involved in desistance — the influence of family, relationships, employment or geographical relocations — it expands the lens to include new perspectives, such as the impact of drug abuses on the post-sentence period, the interaction of religion with delinquency, and the reconfigurations of citizenship.

    Building on original qualitative research in Paris, the book considers a range of factors in the process of desistance, such as spheres of socialization, the role of stigma and the opportunities offered or denied after a time in a criminal lifestyle, and the relationship between those seeking to desist from crime and key institutions and resources.

    1. Introduction: beyond ‘us’ and ‘them’  2. Understanding knowledge about desistance: The empirical and practical contribution of a continent of research  3. Methodology: retracing desistance journeys using in-depth interviews  4. Is there a French accent in desistance processes?  5.The economics of desistance: experimenting with the limits of its power to deconstruct the cult of money  6. Desistance and religion: a passport to redefine one’s affiliations?  7. The intertwining of addictions in desistance processes: the role of an airlock or a bridge  8. Becoming an ordinary citizen again: another anchor for the desistance processes  9. The ambivalent effects of prison  10. Desistance and probation: the paradox of limited institutional effects  11. Desistance and electronic surveillance: leverage with varying degrees of success  12. Contextualising and extending knowledge about desistance


    Valerian Benazeth holds a PhD in political science at the university of Paris-Saclay (France) and is an associate researcher at the CESDIP research Center. Educated in France and in the US as an exchange student (UTEP, TX), and then as a teaching assistant (Williams college, MA), he conducted one of the first empirical study about desistance in France. His doctoral research integrated a three-year fieldwork, received merit scholarships from the City of Paris and from the French Department of Justice. After serving for a time as the head of the research department inside the French Youth Justice Board, he resumed teaching at university in France.

    "Beginning with a Durkheimian understanding of crime and punishment, Benazeth has produced a fully French reconceptualization of the desistance concept that is theoretically sophisticated and critically nuanced in way that few can do as well as the French. A gift to criminology akin to the Statue of Liberty."

    Shadd Maruna, Professor of criminology, Queen’s University Belfast.

    "Prison overcrowding is a problem as old as the prison itself, but in the late modern period it has reached unprecedented heights and combined with long sentences and aging prisoners is creating a humanitarian disaster in many countries.  In this much needed book, Valerian Benazeth points to a hopeful way out too often abandoned or overlooked by contemporary prison services, learning from the many former prisoners who have desisted from crime and no longer need prison bars to protect safety.”

    Jonathan SimonLance Robbins Professor of Criminal Justice Law, Berkeley University.