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Title: Motivating and maintaining desistance from crime: male Aboriginal serial offenders' experience of 'going good'
Author(s): Sullivan, Katherine Maree
Affiliation: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
Keywords: Aboriginal
serial offender
north western NSW
life stories
figured worlds
Date created: 2012-07
Year accepted: 2012
Aboriginal people are over represented in prison in Australia, being 13 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous people. Repeat offenders make up a high proportion of the Aboriginal prison population, yet most repeat offenders eventually cease offending or desist from crime. Why do they stop? The process of desistance is complex, non-linear and varies between individuals. North American and British studies report the role of structure and, more latterly, cognition and agency in desistance and re-formation of offender identities. Few of these studies examine the context, particularly the cultural context, of desisters and desistance. This thesis uses anthropological and ethnographic approaches to present and analyse the life narratives of Aboriginal men from north-western New South Wales who have been repeat offenders and are now ‘going good’ (i.e. have ceased offending). Concepts of agency (and its temporal orientations), cultural schemas and figured worlds are applied. The stories of the early lives of participants and the views of community members paint the backdrop of offence, desistance, identity formation and re-formation. The agentic role of the motivating cultural schemas of fatherhood, life partnership, committed kin and respected man are found to operate in the initiation of desistance as men consider ontological security and extricate themselves from the figured world of repeat offender. The interplay of contingency and capacity is critical in the maintenance of desistance, with shortfalls in the individual’s capacity sometimes being bolstered by spousal and family support. The thesis examines the role and interaction of Aboriginal and offender identity in desistance and maps the repeated expression of the underlying value of ‘looking after’ family and kin, and in this context the role of post-release occupation in desistance is critically examined. Continuity of aspects of identity are discovered to be critical in achieving desistance and paradoxically, achieving continuity often involves innovation in relationships with kin and/or in expression of the moral value of ‘looking after’ or ‘caring for’ (kin).
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02Whole_Sullivan.pdfWhole Thesis2.42 MBAdobe PDFThumbnail

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