Advancing a Gendered Perspective of Desistance and Identity Transformation
Kras, K. & R. Stone (2017)
Funding received, data collection to begin Fall 2017

Despite an increasing number of justice-involved women, criminological theories about offending behavior have largely emerged from studying male samples and later applying them to females, thereby neglecting to specify women’s unique experiences in the justice system. Primary theories explaining entry into and exit from a life of crime have focused on the influence of internal (i.e. cognitive) and external (i.e. structural) factors. There remains an ongoing debate in the field about the importance of identity change for desistance to occur, and the balance between human agency and structural opportunities for leading prosocial lives. Theoretical developments in this area also raise questions about the implications for policy and practice, particularly in the arenas of incarceration and community supervision. To date, very little attention has been paid to how these theories of desistance might operate differently by gender.

To develop gender-specific theories of desistance from criminal offending, this project aims to collect a comparative dataset of in-depth interviews with men and women probationers and parolees. Specifically, this project seeks to understand 1) how current theories of desistance apply to a contemporaneous sample of men’s and women’s experiences in the justice system, 2) how age-graded life course experiences related to desistance might be different for men and women, thus providing gender-differentiated opportunities for change, and 3) how evidence-based community supervision strategies aimed at desistance are experienced by men and women. Findings from this research will be used to inform theoretical development in the life course framework and evidence-based policies and practices implemented in community corrections agencies.

Meanings of Motherhood Study, September-December 2013
Role: Co-PI (doctoral dissertation research)

Using data collected through in-depth life history interviews with thirty recently-pregnant women who had used alcohol, tobacco or other drugs during their pregnancies, this study captured the experiences of substance-using mothers as they navigated health and criminal justice systems. The data reveal multiple patterns of desistance behavior, from prompt desistance to persistence throughout the pregnancy. Women supported their desistance during and after pregnancy by reinterpreting their life stories as narratives of redemption. By reinterpreting their past suffering as redemptive, desisting women were able to narrate prosocial and generative futures in which they would tell their stories to others to show that desistance is possible. Women’s stories highlighted their strategies for managing their risk of detection by health or criminal justice authorities and revealed multiple barriers to treatment and healthcare, including a lack of suitable treatment options.


Stone, R. and K. M. Socia (2017). Boy with toy or black male with gun? An analysis of online news articles covering the shooting of Tamir Rice. Race and Justice, OnlineFirst, 10.1177/2153368716689594.

Stone, R., M. Morash, M. Goodson, S. Smith and J. Cobbina. (2016) Women on parole, identity processes, and primary desistance. Feminist Criminology, OnlineFirst, 10.1177/1557085116670004.

Rydberg, J., R. Stone and E. McGarrell. (2016) Utilizing incident-based crime data to inform strategic interventions: A problem analysis of violence in Michigan. Justice Research and Policy, 17(1), 3-27.

Stone, R. (2015) Desistance and identity repair: Redemption narratives as agency-restoring counterstories. British Journal of Criminology, 10.1093/bjc/azv081

Stone, R. (2015) Pregnant women and substance use: fear, stigma, and barriers to care. Health and Justice, 3(1): 1-15.

Stone, R. and M. Morash. (2014) Influences on substance use cessation during pregnancy: An exploratory study of women on probation and parole. Criminal Justice Studies, 27(1): 96-113.

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