What experience led you to write this book?
‘Black Men, Invisibility, and Desistance from crime: Towards a Critical Race Theory of Desistance’ has been three decades in the making, culminating in the passing of my doctorate in Feb 2013. In the intervening years I have worked tirelessly in prisons, communities, combined with numerous other settings and locations trying to gain insights, knowledge, and understandings into the understandings and insights into ‘race’ and the ‘racialisation of crime’ with specific reference to black men. Indeed, my observations and participation within prison rehabilitation programmes targeted at black men over 3 decades has led me to believe that seldom have the insights, understandings, and ‘lived’ experiences of black men who come into contact within the criminal justice system, been taken into consideration when contributing to the broader dialog around the study of both re-entry and desistance.
How did you conduct the research used in the book?
The research operated from an ‘interpretivist perspective’. That is, it focused on the meanings that black men gave to their lived experiences in relation to the racialisation of crime and criminal justice systems and its impact on the desistance process, (McAdams 1985). The study involved 11 black men from the community from Birmingham (UK), 11 prisoners, located in HMP Grendon’s Therapeutic Community (TC), and 9 black men from the city of Baltimore, (USA). Semi-structured interviews and urban ethnography were methods used to gather the data, (Anderson, 1999). A key theoretical framework employed throughout this research was Critical Race Theory (CRT) that has been widely applied to law (Delgado and Stefanic 2005); education, (Ladson-Billings 1995); and more recently sport (Hylton 2005). CRT then became the foundation from which a ‘counter narrative’ was developed to privilege the racialised voices of black men in relation to their insights and understandings of the desistance process. The research also examined ‘prison’ as a possible key site where the trajectory towards desistance possibly begins. This assumption was motivated by the few prison studies that alluded to the possibility of ‘transformation’ and ‘change’ whilst in prison.
What findings in your research surprised you?
The findings in the research were not surprising, but were challenging to produce. However, what was surprising is how little acknowledgement there is within so called ‘mainstream criminology’ in relation to the racialisation of criminal justice processes/systems, in spite of the high level of disproportionality of black men in UK and US prisons. The other surprising thing is how little qualitative research within criminology explores ‘race’ and ‘racialisation’ as social constructs and important variables when looking at wider issues within criminal justice as a whole. My research also revealed how the criminal justice response to black men within the UK/US criminal justice systems is increasing in its punitive response to this disproportionately represented section of the community. The surprise here is how little public outcry there is in relation to this huge human catastrophe.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I am hoping that readers will see that I have made a small attempt to make the hidden construct of ‘race’ within UK criminology visible. I always want to engage the reader in wider dialog around the issue of ‘race and crime’ with specific reference to desistance designed to generate more discussion, alongside a relevant and contemporary context for strategic criminal justice agencies and policy makers. I am also hoping that the readership will be varied and push academic books like mine into a wider and more diverse audience, outside of the academy.
Towards a Critical Race Theory of Desistance
Series: International Series on Desistance and Rehabilitation
Past studies have suggested that offenders desist from crime due to a range of factors, such as familial pressures, faith based interventions or financial incentives. To date, little has been written about the relationship between desistance and racialisation. This book seeks to bring much needed...
Published December 2nd 2013 by Routledge