The International Journal of Sport and Society offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Sport & Society Research Network.
This article discusses the relationship between the sport of boxing and desistance from crime. Working with young men in the English youth justice system, we co-developed a boxing workshop to explore the ways in which boxing creates avenues for the accomplishment of masculinity, and how these masculine scripts map onto desistance narratives and vice versa. We suggest that the sport of boxing is beneficial as an engagement tool, and demonstrates the power of sport in working with young men at risk of, or currently entrenched in criminal justice systems. We propose that the development of desistance narratives allowed the young men in this study to situate their masculine accomplishments in a hyper-masculine sport, and construct a narrative identity that reflected an openness to change. We propose that while boxing can be a beneficial vehicle for change, youth justice systems and funders of boxing programs need to think more strategically about the use of the sport.
Deborah is the Head of Youth Justice for the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and has over 15 years’ experience of working in youth justice as both a practitioner and service manager. She has implemented sporting programmes such as Positive Futures, and was the recipient of a Winston Churchill Memorial Fund scholarship evaluating the impact of sporting programmes on communities in the USA. Her current research focuses on youth justice and sport criminology, and Deborah has a particular interest in the impact of boxing on serious youth violence and sexual exploitation. She has published extensively in the field of sports criminology and is the grant holder and Principal Investigator for the Comic Relief funded project - Getting out for Good: Preventing Gangs Through Participation. She is also the Co-investigator alongside Professor Hannah Smithson on Kicking Crime into Touch; a Sport Relief project funded in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University Sport and England Rugby.
Professor Hannah Smithson has worked within the field of criminology for over 20 years and specialises in the area of youth justice. Hannah is the co-convenor of the award winning Greater Manchester Youth Justice Partnership - a partnership between Man Met and each of the 10 Greater Manchester youth justice services. The partnership has led to the creation of a transformative new framework: Participatory Youth Practice (PYP). PYP is the first framework to be co-created with justice-involved children based on their lived experiences. PYP has had an impact on youth justice practice, on national and international youth justice strategies, and, most importantly, on justice-involved children themselves. Hannah works collaboratively with a variety of local, national and international communities and stakeholders, including professionals, activists and third sector organisations. Her research has been instrumental in shaping agendas in research and policy across the interconnected areas of: youth justice, serious youth violence and child criminal exploitation. She has written extensively on the problematic reductionism of SYV to involvement in gangs. Her most recent publications explore the benefits and challenges of participatory practice with justice-involved children. She is currently leading a UKRI funded project, in partnership with the Alliance for Youth Justice, exploring the impacts and implications of Covid-19 on the youth justice system and justice-involved children.
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