Date of Conferral
Growing federal attention to addressing collateral damages of the era of mass conviction and mass incarceration has led to millions in funding allocated to support successful reentry for offenders in contact with the justice system. In line with this initiative, federal agencies have recently turned to criminal desistance research to build on earlier recidivism studies and to inform successful reentry programs. In an effort to contribute to opportunities for future research within the desistance paradigm, this study was designed to explore the identity change process of the offender from deviant to prosocial, a continuously emerging concept within the desistance literature that has received little specific attention to date. The identity theory of desistance was used as the theoretical framework for this study in an effort to advance existing theory while exploring the phenomena of interest. The key research questions guiding inquiry related to understanding the lived experience of identity change as a component of the criminal desistance process, identifying determinants that influence this identity change, and identifying behaviors that support the changing identity. Data were secured using a combination of semi-structured interviews with 6 ex-offenders reportedly 10 or more years beyond desistance, observation around interviewing, and document reviews. Data were analyzed using a qualitative descriptive phenomenology approach. Results showed the essence of the experience of identity change through the criminal desistance process involves refining the internal and external world to fit the non-offending working identity. Results of this study advance existing knowledge and theory toward practical, transformative support for offenders on the road to positive reform.