"I just want to give something back" Peer work and desistance
This thesis is a qualitative study into peer work and criminal and drug desistance/recovery in prisoners, probationers and former probationers. In 2012, the Justice Secretary highlighted peer mentoring as a key criminal justice issue and there is research emerging to support the strengths of peer mentoring in relation to desistance. Most research looks at the impact of peer mentoring on those being mentored; however, this study investigates the impact upon the peer workers. This study explores various peer work initiatives, including peer mentoring. Utilising a symbolic interactionist framework, Giordano’s (2002; 2007) theory of cognitive transformation is used to explore the impact of peer work upon desistance, in terms of a transformation of the self and a replacement self that is incompatible with further offending. A general cognitive openness to change is considered, then peer work is presented as a ‘hook for change’. Mechanisms that support the emergence of a replacement self are considered in relation to peer work and desistance. Also considered are mechanisms that restrict the emergence of a replacement self. Concepts of liminality, enabling niches and role commitment are drawn upon to highlight the relational dynamics between self, peer work and criminal justice personnel who support or challenge the replacement self. The fourth cognitive shift involves a move towards desistance through a perception that further offending conflicts with the actor’s sense of self and moral agency. Emotional dynamics of peer work relationships that support the desistance process are drawn upon throughout this research. This thesis offers two key contributions to knowledge. Firstly, the application of Giordano’s theory of cognitive transformation to peer work delivers insight in to the process of creating a pro-social and desirable replacement identity. Secondly, the importance of relational networks to support the emergence of a replacement and desisting self are considered. Through application of the Pygmalion concept and the looking-glass self, key criminal justice personnel are instrumental in the validation of new pro-social and desisting selves and through peer work, these validations take central stage in supporting the desistance process.
- PhD