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