Giving up a life of crime



What leads an offender to leave the world of crime? A recent study led by Frédéric Ouellet, a criminology researcher at Université de Montréal, shows that the level of criminal success has an impact on this decision and on the success of social reintegration.

Social reintegration approaches would benefit by being personalized according to the offender's background and motivation.

Between 2015 and 2017, the researcher collected 27 life histories from people who had committed crimes for profit, such as drug trafficking and theft. He also drew up a calendar of events that marked the offenders' lives since childhood (marriage, illness, arrest, etc.). Using this information, he was able to determine what motivates offenders to cease their criminal activities. . 

Three respondent profiles emerged from the results. The first group was made up of individuals whose criminal activity generated an average of $36,000 per year and who had often spent time in prison. These respondents left the world of crime because they had had enough of a difficult lifestyle which, in the end, was not very lucrative. They had been involved in crime for ten or fifteen years and perceived themselves as criminals. Having little education, it was difficult for them to find a job.

The other two groups had lower arrest rates and showed average annual earnings of $90,000 and $200,000 respectively. Members of these groups abandoned a life of crime because of frustrations such as the impossibility of spending their money as they liked and displaying their success. The second group placed a great deal of importance on money, while the third was more driven by challenge. 

These profiles suggest that social reintegration approaches would benefit by being personalized according to the offender's background and motivation, in order to more effectively promote a definitive desistance from crime.