The Experience of Change among Young Violent Immigrants Serving Time in Prison: An Existential Social Work Perspective

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This article is part of a larger qualitative study on norm conflict and violence among young immigrants. The aim is to understand the experience of change among young, violent male immigrants to Israel from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), who are serving time in prison. Criterion sampling for this article included inmates, aged eighteen to twenty-five, who were serving prison sentences at the time of the interview for crimes of violence committed as adolescent immigrants. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten inmates. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and analysed according to qualitative methods. Novice inmates (non-violent in the FSU but had become violent in Israel) were found to blame mainly society whereas persister inmates (had been violent in the FSU and in Israel) were found to blame mainly factors related to their personal psychological lives. However, regardless of the source of blame, all inmates experienced personal/psychological change including regret, reflectivity and taking responsibility. Findings are discussed heuristically using an existential social work perspective. Findings suggest that, although violence can be attributed to personal and/or social reasons, change needs to come from within the person alongside social change, regardless of what triggered the violence. Prevention and intervention programmes are discussed in light of this understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-72
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author.


  • Social work
  • change
  • existential social work
  • immigrants
  • qualitative methods
  • violence
  • young persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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