chapter  7
Strategies for desistance
Pages 25

Although there may be some individuals for whom desistance occurs by ‘default’, or as a result of a series of ‘side bets’ (Laub and Sampson, 2001), in most cases individuals who have successfully desisted from crime had a plan for how they would be able to refrain from offending behaviour in the future (Maruna, 2001). Although the relationship between intentions to desist and reoffending outcomes lacks robust empirical support within the existing literature, there are some authors who have argued that ‘desistance intentions predict reoffending’ (Porporino, 2010: 72). Giordano et al. (2003) identify the future envisioning of an alternative ‘new’ self as central to the change process. Others have also argued that intentions and actual behaviour are closely correlated (Ajzen, 1991; Serin and Lloyd, 2009; Forste et al., 2010). During the transitional phase of desistance individuals may begin to construct strategies for future action. In part, this may be in response to individuals’ perceived need to change, and in part due to the process of reflecting on the personal and social circumstances which they find themselves in. As such, the transitional phase of desistance may be considered to be part of the overall change process, and the sequence of phases in this process may be similar to that outlined by DiClemente and Prochaska (1982; Prochaska and DiClemente, 1992). In particular, the preparation phase, which occurs between contemplation and action, may be the most similar to the transitional phase as it is conceptualised here. During the preparation phase individuals are making the transition from intended to actual behaviour. Small changes may have begun to take place, but full behavioural change has not yet occurred and individuals are not fully committed to change (although they may commit in the near future) (Prochaska et al., 1992). The desistance literature has paid close attention to several of the phases outlined by Prochaska and DiClemente, in particular the contemplation, action and maintenance phases. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the preparations that individuals make as they embark on the process of desisting from crime. It has been recognised in the literature that successful desisters often make plans, but there has been little research conducted which explicitly examines these plans, and how and why individuals construct them. This chapter offers an examination of the strategies that individuals devise in order to achieve desistance.