Desistance from heroin use and ex-prisoner's life narratives of reform in Hong Kong

Wing Hong Chui, Ryan Holmes

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


This study presents an in-depth investigation of reform through interpreting how a selected group of men who have desisted from heroinuse understand and present their change process. It consisted of ten life narratives including the stories of seven successful desisters and three active offenders living in Hong Kong. The 'opportunity" sample was recruited with the assistance of one non-governmental organization which provides help with discharged prisoners. Based upon the interview data, a thematic content analysis revealed that successful desistance was dependent upon two contingencies, namely deterioration of physical health and religious conviction. In addition, an actor's display of agency through readiness and openness to change was the precursor for establishing an identity shift incompatible with continued criminal behavior. Belief in the good core self encouraged ex-prisoners to achieve 'earned redemption' through engaging in generative pursuits. Desistance from drug-use behavior can be explained with reference to the interplay between individual decision and life-changes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImprisonment and Incarceration
Subtitle of host publicationPatterns, Prospects and Psychological Implications
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781634821186
ISBN (Print)9781634821179
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Desistance
  • Ex-prisoners
  • Heroin
  • Hong Kong
  • Narratives
  • Structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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