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Research Essay on Prison Recidivism

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The term “recidivism” is used to define the tendency of convicted criminals to return to being incarcerated after prior release. It is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice and refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics included that 68% of released criminals returned to prison after 3 years of being released. This astounding number may come as a surprise to some, however, this notion has been prevalent in America for decades. These criminals ultimately succumb to their past temptations and let endless misdemeanors and felonies conquer their lives.

Perhaps the most alarming issue is the prisoners released before turning 21 have a re-arrest rate of about 68%. This percentile clearly supports the hypothesis that juvenile offenders struggle in re-emerging into society. These recidivists are most likely to commit their new offense within two years of release. This suggests that society should spend largely on supervision and reentry programs for the newly released, and not so much after four or five years. Programs like these could help reinvent the ratio of young recidivists and truly establish a dominant margin in the compliance of these struggling adaptors.

Moreover, family is another main factor in the formation of the individual and social personality of the convict. Prisoners’ recidivism rates are associated with the amount of contact they receive with their families. Less care of the family to their children and lack of family involvement is strongly related to crime and incarceration rates. Those families who have good characteristics and strong relations are capable to parent their children appropriately. On the contrary, parents with antisocial behavior and criminality also influence the social, moral, intellectual, and personality development of the children negatively. Besides, the kind of child-parental relationship affects the social development of children. This contributes to the decrease in the quality of relationships between children and parents. In turn, this condition reinforces children to develop delinquent behaviors, anti-social attitudes, aspirations, and practices. In line with this, offenders with limited family support or attachment are more likely to re-offend. A quote from one specific unidentified convict who suffered this poor fate is as follows, “My father was divorced from my mother. Most of the time, I was living with my stepmother. I did not get love and affection from both parents. My stepmother told me bad things about me to my father. Then, I quarreled with my father who forced me to leave home and go to the street. I started to live on the street. While in the street, I met with delinquent friends who pressured me to get into theft activities. Then, I was imprisoned more than three times for charge of the theft crime” This depicts a common instance for many offenders. Alongside, drug problems are one of the main headline crime stories of our time which leads to crime. The urge to commit crimes by drug addicts and alcoholics is motivated by the desire to support their habits. Much of these offenders’ behavior can be linked to substance abuse and addictions. Because they tend to serve short-term sentences, their access to treatment and other programs while in detention is quite limited and they remain at high risk of reoffending. It is believed that any type of addiction has a negative impact on the behavior of individuals as well as the socioeconomic condition of the family and society at large. Data from various studies reveal that drug users are highly exposed to criminal activities because of either motivation by the drug to get money or to meet their addiction. Besides, the high cost of illegal drugs leads users to commit property crimes such as theft, robbery, and burglary to get the money to pay for their drugs.

Economic or material deprivation is also among the factors that throw into crime. These are also considered as factors for re-offending. The economic problems of the participants were manifested in the form of unemployment, poverty, and lack of income which lead people to engage in criminal activities repeatedly. The lack of opportunity is clearly prevalent for convicts, as companies thoroughly vet resumes, and are less prone to hire criminals. It’s estimated that an individual who has a felony on their record has 50 percent less likelihood of getting a callback from employers. The lack of employment options leads to a lack of finances, lack of finances leads former inmates into desperation. And desperation leads back to crime. Society's workforce is also getting exponentially more competitive, and thus a tougher employment pool for hopeful employees has emerged.

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For those who have served long sentences in prison, it’s not surprising that some inmates are intimidated and overwhelmed upon release. Being incarcerated forces an individual into a rigid schedule and they are required to follow rules every single day. While this is undoubtedly difficult to cope with, it also doesn’t give inmates the chance to experience freedom of choice. Once they are released, aside from regular meetings with a parole officer, they have much more freedom and this can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety, which sometimes leads to substance abuse to cope with the issues, which as previously discussed can be extremely detrimental to its’ victim. Also, more on immediate adaptation from the recent release, part of a successful rehabilitation means individuals must distance themselves from negative influences upon their release, and bad influences can come in many forms, but the key for those who have been incarcerated is to find a new support group to associate with. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. Many times, former inmates will go back to the same crowd of people they used to associate with because finding a new group isn’t easily accomplishable. Beyond that, it’s unlikely that a new group would be as willing to help them as their old crowd, thus it’s natural for the former inmate to not change the group they hang out with. Further, if gang activity is involved, it might be very difficult to leave their old group for fear of retribution. All of these issues compound each other, and with each issue included in the individual's release, the less of a chance they have to not become just another statistic of recidivism.

Conditions within prisons are key attributing factors to the failure rehabilitation of prisoners, which in turn would lead to higher recidivation. The current conditions in the US prisons are different from the ideal environment which would facilitate rehabilitation. Prisoners live in poor conditions which are overcrowded and where crime thrives in spite of it being a prison institution. The largest prisons in the US which are Texas and California have experienced an eight times increase in the number of prisoners in the past three decades. However, funding for these facilities has hardly increased; a situation which has made it difficult to cater to the needs of the prisoners. The US has only about 5% of the world's population yet its prisons have more than 25% of the world’s prisoners, which truly shows the magnitude of the problem. The increase in crime in the US over recent years coupled with crime recidivism is largely to blame for the congestion in prisons in the United States. Congestion in these prisons largely defeats their major role which is rehabilitation. Congestion makes it difficult for prisoners to access individualized attention from counselors or healthcare professionals who would assist them with their mental and physical needs. Congestion also makes prisoners interact with people from different backgrounds in close proximity and this may make them develop undesirable habits such as physical confrontations, substance abuse, or sexual molestation. When such occur, it is difficult for authorities to detect them in time and to take the necessary action to discourage the confrontation.

Although many prisons do not have adequate facilities and personnel to undertake programs that reduce prison recidivism, there are a few prisons that have developed programs to deal with the problem. Most of these programs aim at rehabilitating prisoners in order to make them fit back into society. They include educational programs which address the adverse effects of substance abuse or violence in society. For instance, in Alaska, there is a program known as Probation Accountability with Certain Enforcement which aims at reducing recidivism among people who have been put on probation. This program aims at making people on probation learn the importance of probation and the consequences of breaking probation conditions. It is specifically targeted at people with problems satisfying probation conditions.

Ultimately a solution to the issue of such a high rate of struggling criminals is the government should reassess the rehabilitation services and treatment of inmates in the correctional centers. The prison centers and governmental and nongovernmental organizations should provide reintegration training and assistance for recidivists. Specifically, the government should create job opportunities and provide financial assistance for released prisoners to effectively reintegrate into society. Additionally, policymakers should create appropriate policy frames which can address the current gaps in the treatment of prisoners. Besides, the policy framework should specify the role of families, the community, and the government as well as non-governmental organizations in the successful and sustainable reintegration of recidivists. The steps to follow up on this solution would be as follows; Prison culture needs to change: It's clear that prison is not a healthy environment. While often depicted in tasteless ways in modern media, prison genuinely is a terrible place full of toxic 'codes' that inmates need to abide by. Incarceration facilities need to focus on rehabilitation: While there is definitely a need for individuals to be reprimanded and punished in prison, it's more important that these individuals are properly diagnosed and treated in ways that will rehabilitate them and make them productive members of society. Employers need to be more willing to hire felons: While some companies are more willing than others to hire felons, many employers will never give them a chance. The lack of employment opportunities is a big issue and heavily contributes to prisoners' lack of ability to be able to acclimate back into society upon their release. States with higher recidivism rates need to adjust their practices: Certain states have very high recidivism rates (Delaware 69.7%) relative to other states such as Virginia (23.44%). These states should be required to put into practice the same programs and support that states such as Virginia have implemented to reduce their rates. Drug and mental health issues of felons need to be addressed: One factor that is seldom addressed with recidivism is how mental health plays a role. Many of the individuals released from prison have undiagnosed mental issues or develop new issues, such as PTSD, while incarcerated. Mental issues are also prominent in prisons, where studies have estimated that 31 percent of females and 14.5 percent of males have serious mental issues. Without proper treatment, these issues will carry over to when the inmate is released. Correctly identifying and treating these mental issues will help to reduce the chances of individuals with mental health issues returning to prison. If executed properly, the United States could effectively grab hold of the overflowing recidivism rates and truly rehabilitate convicts for the better once they are incarcerated. The United States must resolve this issue before it gets completely out of hand.

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Research Essay on Prison Recidivism. (2023, November 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Research Essay on Prison Recidivism.” Edubirdie, 21 Nov. 2023,
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