The ultimate goal of imprisonment is to protect the society from crime and prevent criminals from reoffending. This goal is not always achieved. Acts of repeat crimes are common among released criminals in the United States. The Bureau of Justice Statistics BJS reported a high recidivism rate among prisoners freed from various state-owned detention centers.
What is recidivism
Recidivism may have different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. In criminal justice, recidivism refers to the likelihood of re-arresting an offender after being released from prison. In the United States, the National Institute of Justice researches re-arrest, reoffending, and reconviction.
Reports and statistics on recidivism
A recidivism study tabled in 2018 by the United States Department of Justice on a sample size of 412 731 prisoners freed in 2005 revealed that 83% rearrests of offenders within nine years of release.
Causes of recidivism
A myriad of factors contributes to reoffending among former inmates. For instance, the failure of former robbery and burglary prisoners or other theft criminals to secure jobs forces them to return to crime as a way to earn a living.
Some criminals are drug and substance abusers. Drug and substance abuse result in addiction and substance use disorders which are known to catalyze criminal activities.
Also, some discharged prisoners associate with fellow criminals. This bad company increases the likelihood of reoffending.
Effects of recidivism
In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons revealed that it cost the government approximately $36000 to accommodate each prisoner. This is a huge burden to the U.S taxpayer. Again, recidivism badly affects children, exposes them to poverty, and even breaks families.
Ways of ending reoffending
Although there are other ways to stop recidivism and crime in general, the main ones are:
Incapacitation: This is a form of punishment whose aim is to restrict individual freedom and independence. Incapacitation is common in criminology. It involves restraining the offender’s movement to prevent them from reoffending. It is the first goal of imprisonment.
Deterrence: This way of preventing recidivism is based on the ideology that people fear punishment. Deterrence is the second measure of preventing crimes. Deterrence has two aspects; first, it is believed that sentences imposed on criminals will prevent them from reoffending in the future.
Secondly, deterrence prevents the members of the public from crimes because they know offenses will attract punishment.
Rehabilitation: In most cases, criminal activities are thought to be triggered by certain factors rather than free will or personal choices. Examples of such factors are; parental neglect, peer pressure, and poverty.
Rehabilitation serves to “repair” the offender from the damage caused by the crime triggers. It helps offenders change and dissociate from whichever factors make them commit crimes.
Other ways to prevent recidivism
The criminal justice system in the United States and most parts of the world focus primarily on incarceration, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation to prevent recidivism.
However, in some instances, criminals are educated, trained, and offered other reentry programs that leave no chances of recidivism.
Some of the offenders are arrested and detained while young. It is, therefore, necessary to offer them primary, secondary, and tertiary level education. Education on career choice, finance, and time management helps the prisoners prepare for the life out of prison.
Vocational training equips prisoners with practical and job market in-demand skills. Prisoners can use the acquired skills to source jobs or start private business ventures, which eventually helps reduce recidivism.
Most prisoners in the United States are subjected to government supervision and support after release from prison. Reentry programs entail vocational programs, mentorship, and job placement. Studies have found out that successful reentry programs are effective in curbing recidivism.
It seems like the whole process of imprisonment is geared towards punishing the offender and protecting the society from criminal activities. It is not built on rehabilitating and changing the offender to refrain from crime.
Unless the United States criminal justice system is adjusted, recidivism rates will forever remain high. Education, training, job placement, and other reentry programs have been shown to reduce repeat offending greatly.