Tuesday, March 5, 2013
PSYC 2400 - Winter 2013
Exiting Crime: Exploring Offender Desistance
• When and why do offenders stop committing crimes?
• What does the ex-offender look like? What kind of behaviors, attitudes, etc. to they express?
• At what point would we consider someone an “ex-offender”?
• Do people stop committing crimes?
• Why do they stop committing crimes?
• What is the process of desistance?
• How does this perspective benefit the Criminal Justice System (CJS)?
• Film/Case Study Activity
The Age-Crime Curve
Research consistently shows:
• Criminal behaviour peaks in late adolescence/early adulthood
• Shows a sharp decline after age 30
• Adult criminal career:
• 6 years (Blumstein & Cohen, 1987)
• 17 years (Ezell, 2007)
• Wide variation:
• 4-30 years (Piquero et al., 2004)
How does Age affect Crime?
• Decline in physical strength
• Lost contact with antisocial peers
• Change in social/institutional environment
• Cognitive changes/changes in subjective interpretation of environment
Other Reasons Behind Age-Crime Curve
• Learning to evade detection
• Change from illegal to legal antisocial activities
• Ongoing antisocial behavior that does not lead to arrest
Research on the Mechanisms Behind Desistance
• Physical ageing
– 50% of active offenders believed they were in worse physical condition at time of
interview compared to 5 years prior – 20% of desisting offenders endorsed this belief
– Many ex-offenders felt they were in better condition due to abstinence from drugs
The Genius-Age Link
• Scientific productivity fades rapidly with age
• Most significant contributions occur during the five years around age 30
An Evolutionary Process?
• Competitive effort
– Leads to productivity of different kinds
– Increases one’s reproductive success
But, is it the same for everybody?
Where are the individual differences?
– Burn out
– Other biological changes
– Unconscious desire for reproduction (evolutionary influences)
Different Trajectories within the Curve
• Around 70% of offenders follow curve (Blokland et al., 2005; Piquero et al., 2001)
• 50% are in the process of desisting (Wiesner & Capaldi, 2003)
• Age of onset important predictor in how long career lasts – finish at same age (Ezell, 2007;
Francis et al., 2007)
• Initial severity level and number of offences also important (Wiesner & Capaldi, 2003)
• No smooth lines
But, still, some offenders desist while others persist…why?
For those who desist…how?
Desistance ≠ Reverse of Risk
• Desistance cannot occur without history of crime
• Early criminal history variables predict early adult offending, but lose predictive power
(Blumstein & Nakamura, 2009)
• Variation in criminal career cannot be explained entirely by pre-criminal individual differences
• Offenders report different risk/desistance factors (Lloyd et al., 2007)
What are the strengths?
• Substance recovery
• Shifts in thinking/beliefs
• Giving up substances often key part of giving up crime
• However, understanding the motivation & effort to become sober is not as clear cut
• Recovery from addiction requires many internal & external resources/strengths Desistance & Life Factors
– (Uggen, 2000)
– (Sampson & Laub, 2005)
Marriage & Desistance
• Differential Association
– Disassociation with antisocial peers (Warr, 1998)
• Social Control Theory
– Stakes in conformity (Sampson & Laub, 2005)
• Quality of Marital Attachment
– Relationship quality (Laub et al., 1998; Maume et al., 2005)
– Only enduring marriages associated with decreases in crime (Theobald & Farrington,
• Teach social skills needed to sustain relationships
• Encourage commitment to relationship
• Encourage children to consider benefits of marriage over other forms of partnerships (Theobald