Voicing desistance: Female perspective on giving up crime

Barr, Una Mairead (2017) Voicing desistance: Female perspective on giving up crime. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Criminological theory and research has historically focused on explaining how people get into crime and much less on how and why they stop, despite the perennial finding that most of those with convictions do eventually stop offending. The very meaning of ‘desistance’ however has been much contested, yet has broadly been linked with themes such as maturity, adult social bonds, agency, identity and hope (Bottoms et al, 2004). Even more concerning, however, is the further marginalisation of already marginalised groups within the vast majority of desistance literature. The bulk of research in this area can be noted for the salience of the white, male perspective of offending trajectories. By revisiting maturational, social bonds and subjective theories of desistance through the eyes of women traveling desistance journeys, as well as considering current criminal justice approaches, this thesis gives a female voice to desistance research.

The methodology which informs this work is observation research and individual narrative interviews of females with convictions. I argue for a feminist approach to desistance, which recognises that a huge proportion of women in the CJS stem from backgrounds of abuse, economic disadvantage and alcohol, drug and mental health issues. Yet we must move away from the dichotomy of narratives of victimisation and survival and recognise that women have agency. We must challenge the neo-liberal and patriarchal approach to desistance which promotes women's role as care givers and unpaid volunteer workers. Women's desistance can challenge neo-liberal, patriarchal constructs much in the same way that women's offending often does.

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