By Ioan Durnescu
Co-producing Desistance is a research project examining the use of social co-operative structures of employment as a mechanism for supporting the resettlement of prisoners and enabling longer term processes of desistance. This project is run by Beth Weaver at the University of Strathclyde and will run from January 2015-2018. Across the UK, and indeed further afield, increasing political, professional and public concern has been expressed about the economic, social and human costs of the increasing use of imprisonment and of reoffending following release. Consequently, there is now growing interest in developing innovative and sustainable practices that can facilitate the social integration and desistance of former prisoners. Research on why and how people stop offending (desistance) has incrementally refocused attention on the kinds of conditions and supports that variously enable or constrain social integration and desistance. However, despite the identified correlations between participation in employment and desistance, this is an area that has received limited attention in policy, practice and research. Responding to this gap in research, policy and practice, this study will examine the potential of a recent innovation in the use of social cooperatives in the UK. In particular, this research uses case studies of more established through-the-prison-gate social cooperatives in Italy to inform emerging cooperative structures of employment in the criminal justice system in the UK in order to consider what social cooperatives might contribute to the integration and desistance of former prisoners; to consider how this learning can translate into improvements for policy design and service delivery in a criminal justice context; and crucially, to inform new ways of working to support social integration and desistance.