Exploring the Role of Desistance Theory in Community Justice Policy Provision for Women in Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


The central aim of this empirical research is to develop a more intersectional understanding of how desistance-focused research has constructed Scottish Community Justice (SCJ) policies and services for women in recent years. This proposed research will critically explore how the wealth of desistance-focused frameworks and approaches (Laub and Sampson, 2001; Healy, 2010) have been interpreted and utilised to influence SCJ responses to women. This study will triangulate policy analysis; interviewing practitioners; and exploring policymaker's perspectives. The methodology will enable both the role desistance research has played in SCJ policymaking and how these policies have translated into service provision to be fully examined. Contemporary desistance literature and research (such as Maruna, 2001; Giordano et al., 2002; Sampson and Laub, 2003; Farrall and Maruna, 2004) will be analysed through the lens of intersectionality and feminist criminological perspectives.

This research will be placed within the researcher's critical feminist and social constructionist epistemology and therefore, not be limited to considerations only focusing on individual agency. It will encompass structural influences towards desistance including, gendered disadvantage (Giordano et al., 2002), institutional cultures (Maruna and Toch, 2005), the criminalisation of the poor (Reiman, 1979) and national penal responses to women (Eski et al., 2011; Steffensmeier and Haynie, 2000). Therefore, this study aims to consider the interplay of complex micro factors which influence women's desistance and the recognised structural aspects (Farrall and Bowling, 1999) which have shaped desistance scholarship (Farrall and Maruna, 2004) and SCJ policymaking.

Desistance theory has become a dynamic field of academia (Graham and McNeill, 2017). The intersectionality of gender and desistance is very topical within Scottish socio-legal and criminology research. This study will be situated within the current emerging landscape of changing SCJ policy for women (The Scottish Government, 2014; The Scottish Government, 2015) and the restructuring of Community Justice provision (Community Justice (Scotland) Bill, 2015). Consequently, this study recognises this is an important time to be examining the impact desistance research has on the experiences of community-based initiatives for women in Scotland.

Research Questions:
1. What social, political and academic considerations influence the construction of Community Justice policies for women in Scotland?
2. How have these policies influenced women's experiences of rehabilitation and pathways towards desistance?
3. How successfully has policy translated into practice within community-based initiatives for women with convictions?
4. How could policymakers and desistance scholars better address current limitations within SCJ initiatives to incorporate gendered differences and experiences of the desistance process for women?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000681/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1939223 Studentship ES/P000681/1 30/09/2017 29/06/2024