How Offenders Transform Their Lives.

Author:Reynolds, Marylee

How Offenders Transform Their Lives, edited by Bonita M. Veysey, Johanna Christian, and Damian J. Martinez, Devon, United Kingdom, Willan Publishing, 2009, 225 pp.

In Chapter 1 of How Offenders Transform Their Lives, the editors state that each year 600,000 prisoners are released from prison and return to their communities. These prisoners have many needs, such as treatment for substance abuse, housing, employment, health care and reuniting with family members. While previous research has stressed the importance of these aspects in the successful reentry of prisoners, a less explored area of research is how identity transformation assists offenders in desisting from crime both within the confines of a correctional facility and in the reentry process. As explained in some of the studies in this volume, identity transformation is an internal identity shift, or cognitive shift, in thinking and behavior from that of offender to non-offender.

In Chapter 1, the editors note that symbolic interactionists and labeling theorists have long been interested in "describing the manner in which people assume or are assigned deviant labels." However, "while these theorists explained the pathway to negative identities, they did not explain the pathway out." The studies in this book focus on the transition from negative to positive roles, such as offender to citizen. Each of the book's empirical studies examine how current or former prisoners interface with innovative pro-social programs and networks, and how this contributes to their identity transformation. As such, the book fills a research gap, and is a welcome and necessary addition to correctional literature.

While the contributors to this edited volume acknowledge that offering needed services and programs is essential to successful reentry, their research findings support the argument that identity transformation is also critical. In short, the editors note that it is a combination of factors, "the provision of basic resources necessary to live in the community upon release from prison and the acquisition of the social supports and tools needed for the identity shifts--that better explain the complex process of how offenders transform their lives beyond the criminal self."

As noted above, How Offenders Transform Their Lives, is a series of studies, mostly qualitative, that investigate identity transformation. The contributors to this volume are experienced professionals who come from diverse...

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