The Lives and Adjustment Patterns of Juvenile “Lifers”

Ms Simone Deegan1
1Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

This project aims to broaden understanding of the challenges faced by juveniles who are processed by the adult system for the offence of murder. While these individuals may initially serve time in a youth facility, this arrangement is destined to be (comparatively) short-lived.  With this in mind, the current research focuses on those life-sentenced juveniles who have since attained 18 years of age and are incarcerated in an adult facility or are on parole in the community. Through semi-structured interviews, features of their childhood that may explain, though not justify, their subsequent criminal actions will be explored as well as more recent attempts to negotiate both juvenile and adult prison environments and or parole/community re-entry.

The chief concept underpinning this research is change: specifically, the capacity and proclivity of young male (ex)prisoners to meaningfully attenuate the pains of imprisonment and “spoiled identity” which are inextricably linked to a life sentence in order to plan positively for their futures.  Interviews with nominated significant others (i.e. parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, partner etc.) will document the circumstances associated with the intensification of serious offending in each young person’s life. It will also identify the commitment they have towards supporting the prisoner in their quest to build a positive future and how this may fluctuate over a long or indeterminate sentence.


Simone has worked in the criminal justice system for 13 years as a criminal lawyer and as project officer on the (completed) project Generativity in Young Male (ex)Prisoners: Caring for Self, Other and Future within Prison and Beyond with Professor Mark Halsey. Their book, Young Offenders: Crime, Prison and Struggles for Desistance was published in 2015. Her interest is in young people, violent crime and the prison.


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