Desistance – studying why individuals stop offending – is an important field within criminological and sociological research due to its influence upon criminal justice policies and practices. Desistance research shapes and informs intervention services and professional practices aimed at supporting young people in desisting from crime. Academics in the field have predominantly studied desistance in terms of generational, structural, agential and, more recently, integrative frameworks. These approaches however focus primarily on when desistance occurs, with deeper understandings of why and how individuals initiate and negotiate their way through the desistance process, being overlooked as a result.
This PhD research, supervised by Elaine Campbell and Sarah Winkler-Reid, will address these under-examined questions through ethnographic fieldwork with young people in supported accommodation, and through the application of assemblage theory. This innovative approach will enable an exploration in detail of the practices, experiences and understandings of individuals as they navigate the desistance process and ‘become’ a `desistant subject’. Rather than asking questions of when desistance occurs, this research will ask why and how young people desist from offending using an innovative approach which will focus on the more intricate and complex processes that occur in the process of desistance. By individualising the fluid, contingent dynamics of becoming a `desistant subject’, the research will look to move beyond the flaws of previous work which focused on finding an absolute explanation for why desistance occurred.
Before beginning this project, I was awarded a first-class BSc in Criminology at Sunderland University (2013-2016) before enrolling at Newcastle University to study a Masters in Sociology and Social Research (2016-2017 pending) as part of my 1+3 ESRC Studentship. It was my discontentment with existing desistance literature and research which inspired this research.