Assisting desistance in formal settings : A scoping review



Villeneuve M-P, F-Dufour I, Farrall S. (2020). Assisting desistance in formal settings : A scoping review. Criminologie. 53(1): 41-72.


Research usually relies on measurements of recidivism in evaluating the effectiveness of formal interventions by actors in the criminal justice system. However such studies do not provide information about desistance, i.e. how such interventions can help maintain abstinence from offending and assist desisters in their efforts to change. This scoping review shows that formal agents can support desistance by providing practical help and resources based on desisters’ needs as well as by enabling cognitive and identity shifts through sustained positive feedback and encouragement. A model is proposed to help understand the effects of formal agents on desistance processes. Recognizing the mandatory context in which interventions take place, the fragile balance between the legalistic and therapeutic roles of formal agents, and the inherent fragility of the desistance process is important in devising interventions aimed at promoting desistance. Implications for future research, policy, and practice are discussed