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Award celebrates an impact on crime

The Director of Scotland's national youth justice centre is part of a team that has won a prestigious award for improving understanding about how people move away from a life of crime.

Claire Lightowler, Director of the University of Strathclyde-based Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice, provides knowledge exchange expertise to the Discovering Desistance project, which placed second in the Outstanding Impact in Public Policy category of the Celebrating Impact Awards, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The Discovering Desistance project sought to share knowledge and improve understanding about why people stop committing crime. It was led by Fergus McNeill, of the University of Glasgow, who was joined by the University of Sheffield's Stephen Farrall and Shadd Maruna, of the Institute of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Queen's University Belfast. The other members of the project team are leading researchers about the process of desistance from crime.

Dr Lightowler said: "We are proud to have won this award in recognition of the real changes to people's lives this work encouraged and supported. This project highlighted the importance of involving those who have previously offended in discussions about how to stop reoffending.

"It also demonstrated the value of really thinking about who can benefit from research and how best to communicate with them."

Funded by the ERSC, the project team produced a documentary film, The Road from Crime. The film follows Allan Weaver, an ex-offender turned probation officer, as he travels to understand how individuals like him get caught up in cycles of crime, and how they break out of these patterns.

The issues raised in the documentary were then explored through workshops held throughout the UK, which focused on what can be done to better support people to leave crime behind. Participants included ex-offenders and their families, social workers, probation officers, prison officers, third sector service, policymakers and researchers.

The Discovering Desistance project has inspired a high-level organisational review in the Scottish Prison Service to transform its approach, reframing the service's core task as 'Unlocking Potential, Transforming Potential', and helped to establish the Wirral Desistance Project in England. The start-up of a new charity running music projects for Scottish prisoners, Vox Liminis, was also inspired by a project workshop.

6 June 2014