Co-producing desistance: who works to support desistance

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    In 2003, McNeill argued that desistance research required a major shift in probation practice; a departure from practices underpinned solely by cognitive behavioural psychology focused on changing individual mindsets to practices attending to the relational and social contexts within and through which desistance occurs. Ten years hence, precisely how such a paradigm shift might be realised in practice remains inadequately understood. McNeill (2006:46) proposed that ‘offender management services need to think of themselves less as providers of correctional treatment (that belongs to the expert) and more as supporters of desistance processes (that belong to the desister).’ Maruna (2006:16) similarly argued that reintegration properly belongs to communities and to formerly incarcerated persons and that the role of the practitioner is to ‘support, enhance and work with the organically occurring community processes of reconciliation and earned redemption’.

    Building on these observations, this chapter will commence with a brief overview of the outcomes of desistance research to provide context to the principal focus of this chapter; exploring how such a paradigm shift can and should translate into practice. Moreover, recognizing that the process of desistance, and the people who support it, extend beyond penal practices and practitioners, the focus here is on how practitioners might begin to reconfigure their relationships with and to individuals, families, groups and communities in order to co-produce desistance. Given that the emphasis of this edited collection is on penal practices and practitioners, this chapter will not dwell on the important role of peer-productive practices (Pestoff 2012) such as peer mentoring, self help, activism and mutual aid and their vital contribution in collaboratively co-producing desistance promoting community justice services. Such practices are discussed elsewhere (see for example Maruna and LeBel 2009; Weaver 2011; Weaver and Lightowler 2012; Weaver and McCulloch 2012).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnderstanding penal practice
    EditorsIoan Durnescu, Fergus McNeill
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013

    Publication series

    NameRoutledge Frontiers of Criminal Justice


    • Co-production
    • desistance
    • rehabilitation
    • criminal justice
    • offender


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