General Editor’s Introduction to Flynn, N. (2010) Criminal Behaviour in Context: space, place and desistance from crime. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
Nick Flynn’s excellent book is an example of the sorts of research being undertaken in UK universities which is at the very cutting edge of explorations into desistance from crime.
Using qualitative data from interviews with 30 male prisoners, backed up a secondary data analysis of the communities from which they came and to which they returned following their prison sentences, Flynn is able to explore the extent to which “a shared experience of spatial disadvantage in the city shapes offending behaviour”. Notions of ‘space’ and ‘place’ – appropriately embedded in a nuanced consideration of the work of geographers such as David Harvey, Mike Davis, David Massey and Nigel Thrift – are used to develop insights into desistance from crime which are truly novel and which mark this out as a key reference point for future work in this area.
Flynn presents us with conclusions which hint at the complexities and difficulties facing not just those who wish to desist from crime, but those employed to assist them in this journey; the documented failures to secure decent jobs and accommodation indicates, as Flynn remarks, that desistance and reintegration are hugely shaped by where offenders live.
Of course, where they end up living reflects a larger system of reproduction (namely capitalism) which is both highly unstable (in that resources can be moved quickly and without concern about the social consequences of such a move) and which generally locates groups of people differentially according to the availability of these (and other) resources which are key in assisting desistance.
Uneven geographic development is an accepted and systematic outcome of those very social relations and socio-economic processes associated with modern capitalism. In Flynn’s analysis, it follows that reliance on governments to facilitate effective economic and social interventions for those ex-prisoners living in those neighbourhoods blighted by high levels of structurally-induced unemployment and homelessness is unrealistic.
Nick Flynn’s book will make an immediate and lasting impact on debates and theorising about desistance from crime and for this reason in particular we are delighted to include it within the series.