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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Desistance for a Long-Term Drug-Involved Sample of Adult Offenders: The Importance of Identity Transformation

  • Author(s): Bachman, R
  • Kerrison, E
  • Paternoster, R
  • O’Connell, D
  • Smith, L
  • et al.

© 2015, 2015 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology. Using a mixed-race sample of male and female drug-involved offenders who were released from prison in the early 1990s and re-interviewed in 2009 through 2011, this article represents perhaps the first attempt to determine the utility of the identity theory of desistance (ITD) in explaining desistance in a contemporary cohort of adult drug-involved offenders. Supporting the ITD, interview narratives revealed that the vast majority of offenders who successfully desisted from crime and substance misuse had first transformed their offender identity into a non-offender identity. Although partnership and employment did not appear to be significant turning points per se for the majority of our respondents, rekindling relationships with extended family and finding living-wage employment did serve to solidify new prosocial identities once the transformation had occurred.

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