Realizing a Good Life

Men’s Pathways out of Drugs and Crime

by Elizabeth Comack  

Criminalized men tell us how they overcame trauma, racism, poverty and abuse. Personal and institutional supports of caring are key – being cared for and caring for others.

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  • April 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773635651
  • 224 pages
  • $27.00
  • For sale worldwide
  • PDF April 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773636269
  • $26.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • EPUB April 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773636252
  • $26.99
  • For sale worldwide

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About the book

Realizing a good life is almost always defined in material terms, typified by individuals (usually men) who have considerable wealth. But classed, gendered and racialized social supports enable the “self-made man.” Instead, this book turns to Indigenous knowledge about realizing a good life to explore how marginalized men endeavour to overcome systemic inequalities in their efforts to achieve wholeness, balance, connection, harmony and healing.

Twenty-three men, most of whom are Indigenous, share their stories of this journey. For most, the pathway started in challenging circumstances — intergenerational trauma, disrupted families and child welfare interventions, racism and bullying, and physical and sexual abuse. Most coped with the pain through drugging and drinking or joining a street gang, setting many on a trajectory to jail. Caught in the criminal justice net, realizing a good life was even more daunting as their identities and life chances became barriers.

Some of the men, however, have made great strides to realize a good life. They tell us how they got out of “the problem,” with insights on how to maintain sobriety, navigate systemic barriers, and forge connections and circles of support. Ultimately, it comes down to social supports — and caring. As one man put it, change happened when he “had to care for somebody else” in a way he wanted to be cared for.

Class Inequality Crime & Law Feminism, Gender & Sexuality Indigenous Resistance & Decolonization


Elizabeth Comack

Elizabeth Comack is a distinguished professor emerita in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Manitoba. Comack’s work in the sociology of law and feminist criminology has been instrumental in setting the course for Canadian scholarship. She is a member of the Manitoba Research Alliance, a consortium of academics and community partners engaged in research addressing poverty in Indigenous and inner-city communities. Comack is the author or editor of 13 books, including Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Criminalization; “Indians Wear Red”: Colonialism, Resistance, and Aboriginal Street Gangs (co-authored with Laurie Deane, Larry Morrissette, and Jim Silver); and Racialized Policing: Aboriginal People’s Encounters with Police.


  • Chapter 1. Realizing a Good Life
  • Chapter 2. Getting into The Problem
  • Chapter 3. Being in The Problem
  • Chapter 4. Getting Out of The Problem
  • Chapter 5. Bringing It to a Close


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