Discovering Desistance wins prestigious ESRC award

Published on 6 Jun 2014

The Discovering Desistance project was placed second in the Outstanding Impact in Public Policy category of the Celebrating Impact Awards, organised by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) on 5 June 2014.

The project sought to share knowledge and improve understanding about why people stop committing crime. It was led by Fergus McNeill (University of Glasgow) who was joined Stephen Farrall (University of Sheffield) and Shadd Maruna (Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Queen's University Belfast). Claire Lightowler, Director of Scotland's Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (formerly programme manager at Iriss) was also one of the project team. She said:

"We are proud to have won this award in recognition of the real changes to people's lives this work encouraged and supported. This project highlighted the importance of involving those who have previously offended in discussions about how to stop reoffending. It also demonstrated the value of really thinking about who can benefit from research and how best to communicate with them."

Funded by the ERSC, the project team produced a documentary film, The Road from Crime. The film follows Allan Weaver, an ex-offender turned probation officer, as he travels to understand how individuals like himself get caught up in cycles of crime, and how they break out of these patterns and move on to new lives.

The issues raised in the documentary were then explored through workshops held throughout the UK, which focused on what can be done to better support people to leave crime behind. Participants included ex-offenders and their families, social workers, probation officers, prison officers, third sector service, policymakers and researchers.

The Discovering Desistance project has already had a substantial impact and Iriss has been delighted to be involved. It inspired a high-level organisational review in the Scottish Prison Service to transform its approach, reframing the service's core task as 'Unlocking Potential, Transforming Potential', and helped to establish the Wirral Desistance Project in England. The start-up of a new charity running music projects for Scottish prisoners, Vox Liminis, was also inspired by a project workshop.