Criminal offending is one of the most persistent barriers towards citizenship and socialization. For most criminals and former convicts, finding their place in normal society has been considered a difficult process because of personal and societal issues. Opinions differ in relation to the issue of effective re-socialization among former convicts with various criminologists arguing that it is possible for former convicts to become normal citizens and participants in political and community matters (Laub and Sampson, 2001). The public including government officials is, however, wary of this claim and points out that former convicts may continue to pose a threat to the rest of society and that it is not possible for them to reach the point where they can safely participate in normal citizen activities without posing a threat to the safety of society (Sherman, 1993). This paper will now evaluate the evidence that as people stop offending, they also become citizens, becoming more engaged in political and community matters. It will first present a discussion of the theories involving criminal recidivism and desistance, including re-socialization. A more critical analysis of these concepts will follow, including an assessment of the details involving re-socialization and its impact on former and released criminals.
Desistance is a difficult phenomenon to evaluate because it refers to the non-existence of events or criminal offending; such non-existence of criminal activity cannot easily and objectively be measured (Maruna, 2001). Desistance basically means stopping, in this case, stopping from committing crimes (Maruna, 2001). Some criminologists argue that this concept of desistance is supported by the fact that even the most hardened criminal cannot persistently commit crimes and that there is a termination point for most crimes and criminals (Shover and Thompson, 1992). Offenders do not consistently offend either, and individuals may go weeks or even years without committing any more crimes. Still, evaluating this phenomenon with its associated certainties can be a difficult process to undertake (Shover and Thompson, 1992). Moreover, theories can be used in order to understand desistance in criminal offending.
Maturation is one of the theories, which help establish an understanding of desistance, with age and criminal offending being associated with each other. In the maturation theory of S. Glueck and E. Glueck (1940), the theorists discuss that for as long as there are no neurological or biological issues, individuals develop well mentally and physically; moreover, they eventually break from offending. In effect, those who persist in their offenses in their older years may not have reached maturity as yet (S. Glueck and E. Glueck, 1940). S. Glueck and E. Glueck (1940) also discounted external transformation; however, they did not indicate a specific chronological age in human development. Such point was later emphasized by McCulloch and McNeill (2008) on their observation about chronological age not having meaning on its own. In effect, without any specific age, it would be difficult to indicate the point of maturation and then to assess developments within a specific chronological understanding (McCullogh and McNeill, 2008).
Other theorists developed a different understanding of crime and desistance, with crimes being defined as short term events which presuppose a specific set of necessary elements or conditions and criminality being founded on stable differences, which affect the possibility of offending (Messner et al., 1989). Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) also discuss about self-control as an element of offending with low self-control indicating a tendency to offend. They further elaborate that those with low self-control are more likely to participate in impulsive risk taking in order to secure immediate gratification (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). These qualities are associated with