Desistance From Crime Essay

The cycle of a society is practically incomplete without the presence of crime and a proactive justice system. Even countries with significantly low crime rates ensure that there are measures put in place to ensure desistance from crime amongst individuals.

But there are questions that always linger in this atmosphere: why do people commit crimes, and, how do they stop committing crimes? Criminologists answer these questions with an apt disquisition of human psychology, particularly of those that engage in crimes.

The centre-piece of this, however, lies in the distinction of individual psychology, encompassing their mode of thought, leading to a formulation of methods to ensure that headway is made in maintaining the sanity of a society.


People commit crimes for a variety of reasons. Poor upbringing which inadvertently shapes the identity of an individual has a part to play.

Crimes may also be perpetrated because of the difficult situation one may find himself in —a society that is poorly built, with fragile structures and amenities that have a large percentage of individuals that are susceptible to devoting their time to crime.

Individuals may also execute crimes because of the power they possess which is ignited by a lack of fear for authorities linked to the position they occupy.

Crimes are committed because of peer influence and esteeming it as a proactive experience, rather than retroactive.

Either way, as criminals often have reasons for their actions, criminologists have in many ways tried to decipher criminal behavior whilst propagating theories that speak of desistance from crime.


To desist is a verb that means to stop. Desistance is an act of stopping or ceasing. In criminology, desistance is closely related to crime; it is the means of stopping criminal activities, but it goes beyond this utterance.

Criminologists often consider the reasons, the time, and the methods in which an individual proceeds to desist. With this, they infer if the measures of desistance are truly successful or not.

Criminologists fiddle with psychology in this aspect. In lieu of this, they formulate theories that adequately explain — to a large degree — why and how individuals desist from crime.

These theories are now very applicable in fathoming the paradigm shift in the lives of criminals that propagate their desistance from crime. They are also very applicable in the present day.

Accordingly, it is pertinent to view these theories and how they enrage former criminals to persist in abstaining from committing an offense.


There are four theories. Each theory is closely interconnected to one another. They establish the relation between conditions and actions, bridging the gap between the individual’s fettle and psychological solutions. They are:

● Ageing

The theory of ageing posits that in the two groups of individuals; adolescents and persisters (old offenders), according to Moffitt, adolescents are more prone to desistance because they engage in crime when they are younger and see the light earlier than old offenders.

Old offenders, on the other hand, begin their criminal escapades at a later age and persist. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, old offenders usually stop desistance.

However, some think of desistance as a natural phenomenon in the life of criminals. As they grow old, they become desistant towards such crimes and seek a less rugged existence.

● Life Course Theory

Relating to the first, desistance from crime, in this case, is caused by life processes; the natural passages a criminal may journey such as relationships, jobs, and even age increment.

This passage enables the criminal to eliminate his past, embark on growth and developmental undertakings, observe his character and make life-changing decisions that will allow him to live in better conditions.

Herein, the impact of his social environment is linked, remarkably, with his urge to desist from crime.

● Agency

Everyone can make rational choices and discern between good and bad. Past criminals can make rational choices.

In doing so, they exert themselves in ways that are acceptable to society, they distance themselves from crime by recognizing their past life with an increased willingness to change for the better.

To accomplish this, they persist, having changed the course of their life to suit the influence of the social environment they find themselves in, and exhibit an emboldened proportion of strong will.

This allows them to know what they want and properly unhinge from the infraction.

● Social Identity

Once a person is ready to desist, he proceeds to change his identity; establishing a new set of beliefs and perspectives. He examines his past life in relation to the present and surfeits himself with large doses of positivity.

Moreover, developed countries practice restorative justice —a justice system that banks on reshaping the mindset of criminals — for this sole reason.

Reforming the social identity of an individual has become a paramount objective for most countries, so much so that the difference between desistent offenders and persistent offenders is the identity they choose to journey in. In this case, the former choose to journey on the roads of desistance from crime.


“The vast majority of people who engage in crimes eventually stop” is not an entirely factual statement. In fact, the aforementioned theories have been criticized by some individuals who have described them as a circumscribed assessment of individual behaviour as there are people who still commit crimes in old age, although sparse. The theories of desistance from crime, however, are still largely applicable in everyday life.

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