MAJOR CONFERENCE ON UNDERSTANDING HOW AND WHY PEOPLE STOP OFFENDING
Cork, October 22nd, 2013: “Desistance – Giving up crime is only half the battle. The stigma, exclusion and discrimination only gets felt and gets real after that” according to Allan Weaver speaking today at the Cork Alliance Centre’s conference, ‘The Journey of Desistance’ marking the Centre’s 10th anniversary. The conference aim is to explore what the process of desistance entails for the individual, and consider influencing factors in wider society.
Joining the Cork Alliance Centre’s Manager, Sheila Connolly, to explore the ‘journey of desistance’ at the Triskel Arts Centre, Cork are key international speakers Allan Weaver who will discuss “The Dynamics of Offending and Desistance: A Personal Journey”, Professor Shadd Maruna Ph.D. who will explore “Desistance in the Real World: From Theory to Practice” and Steve Duncan who will run the workshop “Hope is the drug every offender needs - exploring the heart of what it is needed to desist from crime”. Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, T.D. will officially open the conference.
Over the past decade in excess of 1,000 people have chosen to seek support from the Cork Alliance Centre on their release from prison. On average 70 service users at any time access the supports of the service. Some service users have been through university, and many more are at, or have been to college- currently fifteen are in full-time education. Many have found recovery from addictions, and while others are struggling with their recovery they are seeking support to change. Those who access the service of the Cork Alliance Centre choose to do so voluntarily; it is their commitment to change and desistance. As Steve Duncan recently tweeted “the paradox of desistance is... you can’t do it alone, but only you can do it!!”, the Cork Alliance Centre ensures people do not have to do it alone.
The Cork Alliance Centre’s perspective and experience of desistance from crime will be voiced by its service users at the conference as they present their film “Let My Voice Be Heard – The Journey of Desistance”, made with the support of Cork based film-maker Jason Loughnane, who acknowledges that “by meeting the participants of the Cork Alliance Centre I was inspired by their supportive message, that there is hope and it is possible to stay away from crime, drugs and violence in our society.” Sheila Connolly, Manager of the Cork Alliance Centre since its formation, shares the lived experience of “A decade of supporting desistance” and therein seeing real change in peoples lives. In her work Sheila recognises that she knows “good people who have done bad things, people who every day are trying to do the right thing. They cannot change what they have done but they can take responsibility for it, and they can seek to repair the harm through living honourable, caring and connected lives.”
For further information, contact Sheila Connolly on 087-6890210 & [email protected]
The Cork Alliance Centre was established in 2002 with the support of the Probation Service. The Centre’s focus is the provision of a range of services for individuals on release from prison to make a ‘fresh start’, both in terms of reducing offending and increasing positive participation in individual, family and community life. The importance of self-worth, self-belief, self-respect and self-determination in the desistance journey as people live crime free lives cannot be underestimated and the centre’s work facilitates service users to become better equipped to manage their lives more positively.
Allan Weaver was born and raised in Saltcoats, Ayrshire. He began offending at the age of 12 and subsequently spent more than a decade steeped in an offending lifestyle. This culminated in years of detention in various penal institutions across Scotland. After returning to school at the age of 31 and successfully obtaining the necessary Higher qualifications, he attended the University of Strathclyde where he was awarded his Diploma and BA in Social Work. He has been employed by North Ayrshire Council as a Criminal Justice Social Worker for the past 18 years and has been a Team Manager for the past 10, during which time he has also completed an MSc in Criminal Justice and obtained a Practice Award in Advanced Criminal Justice Studies. He has also supported a number of Social Work students through their placements. His autobiography 'So You Think You Know Me' was published in 2008 and he recently played the narrator and protagonist in the film 'The Road From Crime'.
Professor Shadd Maruna Ph.D. is the Director of the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. Formerly he has been a lecturer at the University of Cambridge and the State University of New York. His book Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives was named the Outstanding Contribution to Criminology by the American Society of Criminology in 2001. He was also the inaugural winner of the Research Medal from the Howard League for Penal Reform in 2012.
Steve Duncan is co-founder of Insider Insight. He is an award-winning performance poet and inspirational speaker who has discovered through heart-felt self-expression, a way to be at one with himself and connect with others. Recently, he performed his poetry on ‘Poetry Please’, Radio 4’s flagship programme in the UK. As well as performing his poetry, Steve regularly, and very successfully, presents at conferences and training workshops for both the prison service and probation service all over the UK. He has spent time inside, as prisoner and probationer, and this experience made him face up to the truth about himself and those he came into contact with through the justice system. He is blessed with great insights into how people think, and the stereotypes they carry around with them, both inside and outside the prison walls. Using an academic approach to understanding desistance from crime can be insightful and thought-provoking. Confronting people’s dramatic personal experience of life change can be very moving and inspiring. But what happens when you use both approaches? -something very exciting and powerful.
Sheila Connolly is the Manager of the Cork Alliance Centre since it opened. With a heart for relationships and a mind to understand the pathways of recovery she has recently completed a Masters in Restorative Justice with the University of Hull. In 2001 she established the Linkage Programme office in Cork, and prior to that she worked overseas with Concern Worldwide for 6 years in East Africa and Southeast Asia. Sheila also volunteers with the Cork advisory group for MOVE and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
The project was established in line with issues raised in The National Crime Council’s Consultative Paper Tackling the Underlying Causes of Crime A Partnership Approach[i], which stated the need to provide necessary support structures for former prisoners to aid their re-integration. Reintegration being seen and understood to be an integral part of any balanced crime reduction strategy. Additionally, a priority recommendation of the NESF Report (no. 22), The Re-integration of Prisoners[ii] was to develop more planned and integrated after-care for prisoners on release; which is what is offered by the Centre.
The choice for change and the associated choice for desistance is not a once off decision, but rather a complex process of continuous choices to desist from crime. Together with a support mechanism to sustain the life changing choices and the motivation and belief in oneself and society that such change is achievable, valuable and tangible, are inherent for desistance from crime to be sustained. Intrinsic in this is the need for inclusion and acceptance within society.
The work of the Cork Alliance Centre relates to activities directed towards facilitating service users to become generally better equipped to manage their lives positively. The importance of self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-respect and self-determination in the desistance journey cannot be underestimated. ‘To desist from crime, ex-offenders need to develop a coherent, pro-social identity for themselves’[iii], and be well grounded with positive self-efficacy. Facilitating service users as they restore their positive ‘connections’ with their family, friends, community, society and most importantly with themselves is fundamental to the work of the Cork Alliance Centre.
[i] National Crime Council, 2002. Consultative Paper Tackling the Underlying Causes of Crime A Partnership Approach. Dublin: Stationary Office
[ii] NESF, 2001. Re-integration of Prisoners, Forum Report No. 22. Dublin: National Economic and Social Forum
[iii] Maruna S (2001) Making good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives, American Psychological Association Books: Washington DC, p7