Justice capital: A model for reconciling structural and agentic determinants of desistance

AuthorDavid Best,Lorana Bartels,Sharynne Hamilton,Lauren Hall
Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Justice capital: A model
for reconciling structural
and agentic determinants
of desistance
David Best
University of Derby, UK
Sharynne Hamilton
University of Western Australia, Australia
Lauren Hall
University of Lincoln, UK
Lorana Bartels
Australian National University, Australia
The emerging literature on desistance (and recovery from addictions) has focused on
key life-course transitions that can be characterised as the need for jobs (meaningful
activities),friends (transitioning to pro-social) and houses (a home free fromthreat). The
term ‘recoverycapital’ is used to characterise personal, social and communityresources
an individual can draw upon to support their recovery, partly bridging agentic (per-
sonal) and structural (community) factors. The development of the concept of ‘justice
capital’ furthers this reconciliation, by focusing on resources an individual can access
and the resources that an institution can provide. We build on this by outlining the
concept of institutional justice capital (IJC) to examine the role of criminal justice insti-
tutions in supporting or suppressingjustice capital, particularly for marginalised groups.
We use a case study approach,drawing on recent studiesin prisons in Australia and the
Corresponding Author:
David Best, Department of Criminology, College of Business, Law and Social Sciences (BLSS), University of
Derby, One Friar Gate Square, Derby DE22 1GB, UK.
Email: d.best@derby.ac.uk
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2021, Vol. 68(2) 206–223
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/02645505211005018
United Kingdomto develop a model of justice capitalat an institutional level anddiscuss
how this can shapereform of prisons and can be matchedto the needs of offenders. The
paper concludes with a discussion of future directions inimplementing an IJC model, to
deliver a strengths-based approach to promoting desistance and creating a metric for
assessing the rehabilitative activities of institutions.
desistance, justice capital, rehabilitation, prison, prisoners
Introduction and background
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest, by academics, policy
makers and practitioners, in the idea of rehabilitation, which has been embedded in
a larger cultural shift in justice theories towards a strengths-based approach. We
are mindful that we are writing this at a time of monumental change to prison
regimes across the world, including in both the UK and Australia. In the former, the
current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in numerous deaths of those who work
and live in prison (Stobbs, 2020). To date, this has not eventuated in Australia,
although there has been particular concern about the potential impact of the virus on
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are incarcerated at dispropor-
tionate rates and are at the same time experience health conditions that make them
particularly vulnerable to contracting and suffering severely from the virus. Against
this backdrop, there has been an increasing focus on issues such as the provision of
personal protective equipment and the suspension of in-person visits from family and
friends, increased lockdown periods, and access to resources to support them.
Although COVID-19 is currently posing significant challenges to all aspects of ser-
vice delivery in the criminal justice system, it also presents an opportunity to increase
a focus on recovery and rehabilitation during this time of change.
This aspect of criminal justice scholarship encompasses therapeutic jur-
isprudence, which involves the study of the law’s healing potential (see for example:
Wexler and Winick, 2009: 1519), the birth of ‘positive criminology’, which
emphasises the integration and social inclusion which may constitute a positive
experience for individuals and groups and contribute to a reduction in negative
emotions, desistance from crime and overcoming victimisation (Ronel and Segev,
2015), the continued commitment to restorative models within and beyond justice
settings (Braithwaite, 2003; Sherman et al., 2015) and the emergence of the
desistance paradigm (Maruna, 2001; Maruna and Farrall, 2004). All of these have
evolved in parallel with a recovery movement that shares many of the same prin-
ciples (Best et al., 2017) both for mental health and for addictions.
Although there are clear connections between all of these models, the present
paper is situated within a desistance framework, noting that Maruna and Mann
have described desistance as ‘a near ubiquitous buzzword’ (2019: 1) in probation
services. Maruna described desistance as ‘the process by which stigmatised,
Best et al. 207

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