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Desistance theory

Our work aims to reduce reoffending

Our work is grounded in 'desistance theory'.

Desistance theory

Desistance theory states that the move away from crime is more of a process than an event (or series of events). It also recognises that genuine desistance occurs ‘not through just one activity but through a combination of activities, services and social circumstances’ (Clinks (2013): Introducing desistance: a guide for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector organisations).

Desistance theory supports a tailored approach to delivering support that is relationship based, built on people’s strengths and enables them to define themselves in positive ways by dropping the unhelpful labels they may have acquired.

Fergus McNeill describes different stages in desistance or rehabilitation:

First Stage - Personal/psychological 

Thinking skills and attitudes have changed, so the person sees themselves differently and no longer wants to be a criminal or identify with criminals. This means they are worse than stuck if the wider support is not forthcoming. Offending behaviour stops.

Second Stage - Social /Relational

Willingness of family and community to include them and accept that the ‘debt’ is settled.. This leads to increasing belonging, with the person no longer seen as an offender. The person feels this.

Third Stage - Authentic and Moral Rehabilitation

A genuine non-offending authentic self emerges through self-change but also the bridging social capital of trust from the community. But ……the state and the community owe something to the subject as they are complicit in the conditions that led to the offending in the first place. The punishment should end when the sentence ends but the consequences often persist.

Fourth Stage Judicial/Legal Rehabilitation

Criminal records are often a permanent stigma and not based on risk. The impact casts a shadow over the subject which is disproportionate to the crime.

Faith “provides” the following specialist support

  • Motivator to change
  • Provides examples of resilience and bravery and encourages resilience and bravery in the subject (needed )
  • Provides a moral compass and higher values to measure behaviour against
  • Encourages respect for everyone – love – equal power dynamic
  • Demonstrates belief and hope that anyone can change transformational/mystical
  • Recommends serving others.