Prospects for a Desistance Agenda

The Criminal Justice Alliance has published a new paper, Prospects for a Desistance Agenda. Drawing on interviews with over twenty policymakers, and analysis of official publications, this report considers where desistance stands at present, the barriers that may limit its further progress and the opportunities and risks afforded by current developments. The findings suggest that desistance has made its way directly and indirectly into UK policy and practice and it would appear that its influence is growing. The research found that desistance theories’ greatest strength was seen to be their common sense appeal. Developing relationships between practitioners and offenders and involving offenders in the design of their rehabilitative plans seemed extremely logical. Freeing up discretion and reducing bureaucracy was also viewed as particularly attractive. However, the political focus on risk and public protection alongside the appetite for imprisonment may at times conflict with a desistance agenda. Robust evidence of the effectiveness of desistance-oriented practice would reassure policymakers, as would proven cost-effectiveness. The report recommends: promoting and utilising offender strengths, both through policy and practice; training staff to focus on developing appropriate relationships; and involving and supporting families in the desistance process. The report can be read in full here with an executive summary available here.