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Dropping your Guard: The Use of Boxing as a Means of Forming Desistance Narratives Amongst Young People in the Criminal Justice System

Jump, Deborah and Smithson, Hannah (2020) Dropping your Guard: The Use of Boxing as a Means of Forming Desistance Narratives Amongst Young People in the Criminal Justice System. The International Journal of Sport and Society, 11 (2). pp. 56-69. ISSN 2152-7857

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Abstract

This paper 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 programmes need to think more strategically about the use of the sport.

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