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Desistance from absconding: “You’ve got to have hope”

Aliye Emirali (Department of Psychology, HM Prison Service, Buckinghamshire, UK)
Rachel O'Rourke (HM Prison Service, Buckinghamshire, UK)
Caroline Friendship (School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 26 November 2020

Issue publication date: 22 April 2020



This paper explores absconding from a new perspective. Literature has tended to focus on the risk factors linked with absconding. This paper aims to consider desistance factors for absconding for prisoners at higher risk of absconding in open prisons.


Stage 1 used logistic regression to identify factors associated with increased risk of absconding. Stage 2 identified new receptions with increased risk and used thematic analysis to analyse interviews with prisoners that did not abscond after three months.


Stage 1 found that the total number of previous offences predicted absconding. Stage 2 found three themes linked to desistance in absconding: “support”, “ownership” and “sense of self”.

Practical implications

This study highlights the importance of ensuring prisoners in open prisons are offered the appropriate emotional and practical support. It also identifies the importance of hope amongst prisoners in open conditions. Future research should further explore this idea in more depth.


Previous literature has looked at absconding from a risk factor perspective. This research identifies the desistance factors associated with absconding for individuals who have been identified as high risk of absconding. Improvements in factors associated with desistance from absconding may support a reduction in absconding from open prisons.



Note this research was funded by HMPPS.


Emirali, A., O'Rourke, R. and Friendship, C. (2020), "Desistance from absconding: “You’ve got to have hope”", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 223-234.



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