A life in prison is the ultimate consequence for self destructive criminal behaviors. The retribution and penalty to society is spending a specific time behind bars. Its restrictive confinement places offenders from publicly harming others, stifling further crimes, depriving daily freedoms and undergoing rehabilitation. The objective of imprisonment is to change the deviant behaviors before re-entering society.
The primary goal of rehabilitation is to reintroduce felons back into society as reasonably conformed and law abiding citizens. During the years of incarceration, prisoners undergo rehabilitation services of job skill training, psychological counseling and educational courses.
Unfortunately, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that some offenders have not benefited from the deprivation experience of their incarceration. These individuals failed to learn the acceptable social behaviors to reenter society. Prisoners with limited rehab skills, have a higher incidence of returning to criminal activity. The judicial term for reverting back to criminal behaviors is known as, “recidivism.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a five year research, on 405,000 felons, in thirty states. It revealed that 77% of prisoners reoffend within five years of their release. The 2005 study also revealed that 275,400 or 68% of the released population re-entered the penitentiary system, within three years.
Their recidivism involved one or more new offenses. This included public order crimes of probation violations, drug offenses, DUI’s, weapons possession and traffic offenses. Other crimes include property offenses of burglaries, arson, grand theft, vandalism and shoplifting.
Of the released 405,000 prisoners, an estimated 33% or 194,400 were violent killers. They served more than 20 years of incarceration than their nonviolent counterparts. Within the same five year period, murderous criminals returned to violent crimes against others.
Data revealed that the nonviolent group, spent less time imprisoned, were more likely to reoffend, after release, than the violent long term felons.
Factors of Reoffending
The reintroduction of criminals into society is very difficult. This is especially true for Hispanic and Afro-American males. According to the 2014 Bureau of Justice Statistics 38%, of incarcerated across the nation, are black males and 21% Latino. Once in society, they often experience struggles in securing jobs, housing and mental health support. Their constant struggles are self defeating experiences that exacerbate recidivism.
Securing a job and supporting oneself or family is important to societal reentry and primary probationary requirement. Many prisoners lack sufficient job skills, work history, positive social interactions, education and interviewing skills to obtain gainful employment. Due to fear and company descriptions, many employers are unwilling to hire ex-convicts.
Housing becomes problematic for persons with criminal records. They are restricted from public housing and most rentals. Ex convicts often fail the required credit checks and background verifications on housing applications.
Individuals with domestic violent offenses and child abuse crimes are banned from the family dwelling. They are prohibited to conduct one’s life near under aged members of society. Courts add to the troublesome process of finding suitable housing by requiring ex convicts, labeled with these crimes, to register as, “sex offenders”.
The 1996 Clinton-Gingrich Welfare law banned felony drug convicts to receive federal cash assistance and food stamps benefits. This law was to permanently prevent criminal drug offenders from selling their food stamps and cash to buy drugs. This law negatively impacted the lives of ex convicts, their families and the successful reintegration into their communities. The restrictive unpopular law directly punished a large number of re-entering minority women and their children, from meeting their nutritional needs. Of the fifty states, ten states continue to practice the extreme law.
Finding a balance of job security, obtaining reasonable and affordable housing and social welfare assistance have kept released prisoners from fully reintegrating into their communities. The lack of basic needs, social support and a good job encourages self defeating behaviors. Many return to criminal activity to meet their basic needs.
What is the answer to stop the cycle of recidivism and crime prevention? The answer may lie with money and political beliefs. Many politicians hold strong approaches to crime prevention. Monies are channeled into effective preventative programs.
Lawmakers have made consistent commitments to early prevention activities. Proven successful programs lie in early childhood education, parenting techniques, after school programs, job training, mental health treatment, child care, life skills, substance abuse therapy and secure living environments. Politicians have spent public funds into reducing discriminations in employment, housing, welfare benefits and steps to eliminate minor criminal records.
In the late 1990’s, Ban the Box campaign was spearheaded by Hawaiian civil rights groups. They sought the removal of the, “criminal history box,” on employment applications. Permanent elimination of the box, opened employment opportunities for ex convicts. It forced employers to focus on the individual’s hiring potential, education, training and job qualifications. This program proved successful in reducing recidivism.
Successful reintegration of prisoners requires healthy family attachments, community involvement, gainful employment, affordable housing, probationary support and social assistance to abstain from a life of crime.
There are many state and local level websites available for job training, housing, immediate and long term social assistance. Reaching out for help and early intervention is crucial to crime prevention and the cycle of re-offending.