Desistance From Crime: Implications for Research, Policy, and Practice

November 9, 2021

Desistance from Crime series cover image

Most scholars would agree that desistance from crime – the process of ceasing engagement in criminal activities – is normative. However, there is variability in the literature regarding the definition and measurement of desistance, the signals of desistance, the age at which desistance begins, and the underlying mechanisms that lead to desistance. According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), even with considerable advances in the theoretical understanding of desistance from crime, there remain critical gaps between research and the application of that research to practice. Understanding this important process has the potential to impact how the criminal justice system operates and how key system stakeholders carry out their work to promote desistance and reduce reoffending.

NIJ is committed to addressing these gaps. Through recent investments in desistance research, NIJ commissioned a series of six papers from innovative and thoughtful scholars whose work provides a renewed focus on desistance for criminal justice scholars and system stakeholders. 

During a November 9, 2021 webinar, the series’ authors presented and discuss key themes from each of their papers, which cover the following topics: (1) defining and measuring desistance, (2) biosocial factors and their influence on desistance, (3) the effects of incarceration on the desistance process for individuals who chronically engage in criminal activity, (4) applying desistance concepts to correctional programing and policy, (5) applying international perspectives of the desistance process to the U.S. context, and (6) pathways to desistance for juveniles and adults.

Access the recorded webinar