Villeneuve M-P, F-Dufour I, Farrall S. (2020). Assisted Desistance in Formal Settings: A Scoping Review. Howard Journal of Crime and Justice.
Current research often relies on measures of recidivism to evaluate the effectiveness of formal criminal justice system interventions. Such studies, however, do not provide information on desistance from crime, that is, on how such interventions can help maintaining abstinence from offending and assist desisters in their efforts to change. This scoping review argues that formal agents (such as probation officers) can play a part in supporting desistance by providing practical help and resources based on desisters’ needs, and can assist in changes in self-identity through sustained positive feedback and encouragement. We propose a model of assisted desistance to conceptualise the effects of formal agents on desistance processes. The mandatory context of interventions, the fragile balance between legalistic and therapeutic roles, as well as the processes of desistance outside of the criminal justice system are considered. Implications for future research, policy, and practice are discussed.