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Criminal recidivism in the Caribbean: improving the reintegration of Jamaican ex-prisoners

Leslie, Dacia 2016. Criminal recidivism in the Caribbean: improving the reintegration of Jamaican ex-prisoners. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Finding ways to reintegrate ex-prisoners into Jamaican society is a pressing but complex social, economic and moral issue. This is due, not least, to the financial costs of prison recidivism and growing concern over the Jamaican state’s capacity to meet the needs of a large number of its citizens subject to forced repatriation to their homeland by overseas jurisdictions due to their offending. The absence of a mature and reliable evidence base about the extent and nature of criminal recidivism in Jamaica also contributes to the challenges faced by policy makers and service providers seeking to reduce incidence of crime. This is in part related to the dearth of research on what is a sizeable and multi-faceted subject matter which has impeded a more decisive and progressive political and policy response. While there are generic criminological themes in regard to recidivism, desistance and reintegration of offenders that cross international boundaries (see Harriott 2000; Headley 2006), there remains the not inconsiderable challenge of identifying culturally specific features that bear upon crime and the policies and programmes that might encourage sustained abstinence from offending and which could be better served by a distinctive Caribbean criminological epistemology. To that end, this exploratory study seeks to offer insights into the social worlds of male and female offenders in Jamaica in order to better understand what they deem to be the influences that led them to crime and those which might at least assist them in desisting from law-breaking. The study is based upon a largely qualitative research design comprising semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Some 54 inmates participated who had received more than one prison sentence and in that sense are termed here a ‘recidivist’, albeit the contested nature of this term and related key concepts such as desistance and reintegration will be subject to scrutiny in the early chapters of this thesis. One other inmate who could not be regarded a prison recidivist mainly because he was awaiting trial on this his second time in prison was interviewed in prison and added to the study. All 55 interviews and most focus groups were conducted with persons being held in three of Jamaica’s maximum security correctional facilities. In addition, eighteen other individuals who had managed to stay out of prison following their release were interviewed within the community. A further set of interviews were conducted with 17 organisational leaders and spokespeople representing state and voluntary agencies engaged in the process of offender reintegration. Their perspectives reveal illuminating contrasts with those provided by the ex-prisoners about the likely ingredients of an effective return to a life without serious offending. The findings will hopefully assist policy makers and professionals in thinking about the steps that might be taken to tackle Jamaica’s high rate of serious crime. As the findings will suggest, such steps must involve a renewed understanding, sense of belief and commitment towards effective reintegration. Additionally, there needs to be a more robust conviction that persons leaving prison can indeed change but that they face embedded hostility and exclusion from a number of quarters. This study provides insights into why ex-prisoners believe that there is resistance amongst influential others in the community to accepting them as ‘reformed’. Such perspectives should assist local agencies in better understanding the impact of negative community attitudes and point to ways to counter social exclusion and help promote effective reintegration. Moreover, the findings point to the importance of strategies at national and local level that can bestow upon ex-prisoners a more meaningful sense of belonging and positive citizenship that can help reinforce the reintegration process. Throughout, the voices and experiences of the ex-prisoners come to the fore to challenge accepted policy and criminological wisdoms and to point out the need for more creative and determined initiatives to help people from prison find a new and better future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: Commonwealth
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 August 2016
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 16:13

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