Investigating The American Penal System And Recidivism Criminology Essay

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Can we decrease recidivism in America? In order to answer this question we need to conduct an experiment; to effectively investigate the high Recidivism rate here in the United States. We will focus on incarcerated males, and female from the Chicago land area who have been incarcerated more than once. We will use non-probability sampling in the form of Complex quotas. Complex quotas can be developed so that several characteristics (e.g. age, sex, marital status) are used simultaneously. We will be organizing the research by age, gender, crime (violent or non violent) and how many times the person has been incarcerated. The independent variable in this study will be the incarcerate male or female.

The American Penal system is in need of major repairs, and improvements. One is to believe that the American prison system was designed to help deter crime, rehabilitate criminals, and offer retribution to the victims; however today one in every one hundred adults is in prison. One in every fifteen African Americans is behind bars (quimby, 2008). To make matter worse recidivism rates in the United States have been escalating ever since 1986. From 1986 to 1994, 215,263 federal prisoners were released from federal custody; 16% returned to federal custody within three years (William, Adams, Parthasarathy, & Yuan, 2000). By 1994, the federal recidivism rate had increased from 11.4% to 18.6% (William, Adams, Parthasarathy, & Yuan, 2000). These statics are proof that the American penal system is failing to rehabilitate criminals, and deter crime. The American people deserve a prison system that can rehabilitate the offender through prisoner custodial and treatment programs. Society expects the penal system to discourage criminals from wanting to continue committing crime with the fear of punishment (Maltz, 2001). In addition, the penal system should be able to discourage others from behaving as the offender has (Maltz, 2001). Why are the recidivism rates so high? What can be done to help generate law enduring civilians? What programs currently exist to help reduce recidivism, and how well do they work? In this study we will study the prison environment including programs, norms, and the inmates to answer the question, is the American Penal System capable of producing law abiding citizen or is the system in need of repair.

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The first example of an American prison was the Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia on Walnut street, as a city jail in 1773. The prison was built as a conservative jail at the beginning of the American Revolution. The Jail was later expanded in 1790 and was considered a model of liberal thinking about criminals. The Walnut Street Prison was considered a penitentiary (from the Latin word for remorse). The prison was created to provide a secure, severe place where inmates can have time to reflect on their wrong doings. The Walnut Street prison is considered to be one of the forerunners on the discipline of thinking on prison creation and development (Schoenherr, 2009). Auburn Prison was built in 1821, and was the first of two prisons approved by New York state law in 1816. The second prison was Sing-Sing approved in 1824. Auburn was built with personal cell-block design to help develop an environment that was suitable to reform, and rehabilitate criminals. The individual cell blocks were also used to separate the criminals from all contact, and communication with other corrupted inmates. The ultimate goal of the Auburn system was to remove the criminal from society, and put them in a place where they could be taught healthy moral habits by the means of sever discipline, and isolation (Schoenherr, 2009). Research has revealed that America attempted to rehabilitate criminals by subjecting them to poor, harsh conditions featuring isolation. However it is clear that these methods did not work at Auburn prison or Walnut street prison, and they will not work today as well. So what will work?

Can we decrease recidivism in America? In order to answer this question we need to conduct an experiment; to effectively investigate the high Recidivism rate here in the United States. We will focus on incarcerated males, and female from the Chicago land area who have been incarcerated more than once. We will use non-probability sampling in the form of Complex quotas. Complex quotas can be developed so that several characteristics (e.g. age, sex, marital status) are used simultaneously. We will be organizing the research by age, gender, crime (violent or non violent) and how many times the person has been incarcerated. The independent variable in this study will be the incarcerate male or female. The independent variable in this research will be the age, sex, marital status, race, and crime of the inmate. No matter what the research reveal one needs to begin address what changes can be made to improve the American Penal system.

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The prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse is much higher among the prison population, than the general population. (Lise & Ranford, 2004) Both of these conditions are barriers to employment and are directly related to higher rates of recidivism (Warren, 2008). For example, substance abuse often involves criminal activity through the use of illegal substances and thus is closely tied to recidivism, especially if parole is violated (Lise & Ranford, 2004). To reduce recidivism we must address the issue of substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol are clearly major problems related to both crime and recidivism. An estimated 50 percent of crimes are drug related (Lise & Ranford, 2004). About 20 percent of offenders report having committed their crime in order to obtain money for drugs (Lise & Ranford, 2004). Additionally, about 36 percent of offenders report using alcohol at the time of their offense (Lise & Ranford, 2004). The percentage of persons arrested in 1998 in 35 cities who tested positive for drugs ranged from 42.5 to 78.7 percent (Lise & Ranford, 2004). Drug management programs have verified flourishing results. Most studies over the past two decades have shown that treatment programs reduce the incidence of criminal behavior and increase the length of time without a crime for released inmates (Lise & Ranford, 2004). Treatment also reduces the frequency and quantity of drugs consumed (Warren, 2008). Treatment is especially effective for low‐level drug offenders who do not have substantial criminal histories (Lise & Ranford, 2004). One study reported that treatment programs produced a 32 percent reduction in Recidivism (Lise & Ranford, 2004).

Low learning achievement is a key blockade to employment for many free inmates. Schooling gives individuals essential skills needed in the manual labor marketplace. It as well develops a sense of self‐efficacy and accomplishment for released inmates. These special effects of learning formulate it into a primary tool for reducing recidivism. With their unpretentious necessity for execution, educational programs are amongst the most essential rehabilitative programs that a prison can offer. Most prisons have educational programs ranging from coursework to vocational training. However, limited slots and restrictions on enrollment mean that only a small proportion of inmates are able to participate. In 1997, about 35 percent of inmates participated in educational programs, and about 27 percent received vocational training. A high school degree is the most common educational need among inmates (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). In 1997, about 41 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons and 31 percent of inmates in local jails had not completed high school or its equivalent, compared to 18 percent of the general population (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). The lack of a high school degree is associated with a higher incidence of criminal activity, with studies linking lower levels of educational attainment to higher rates of crime and recidivism. However, little research has been conducted to determine the effect of prison education programs on recidivism. One study found that prison education programs such as GED courses reduced recidivism by 29 percent, but the characteristics of participants may bias these data (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). Other studies have also shown improvements in recidivism, particularly for participants over 26 years old (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). Nearly every prison has GED courses and in some cases vocational training as well. The curriculum is well established and positive results are indicated, especially for older inmates. However, involvement is inadequate. Although further data is necessary to better understand the reasons for low participation, reasons may include conflicts with other activities, restrictions related to age and length of sentence, and lack of capacity resulting in long waiting lists (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). Limitations on enrollment in programs and long waiting lists can combine to further restrict the ability of a large number of inmates with shorter sentences to enroll in or complete programs (Erisman & Contardo, 2005). Furthermore, planning for release should include referrals for educational services, so that GED and other educational programs can be undertaken or completed.

In conclusion, one must come to understand that the American Penal System is in need of improvements. The system needs to do more than just lock people away. The system must re-educated them, giving them something new skills to use once they are back in the community. The system needs to improve on all drug treatment programs to ensure live a drug free life; because drugs are a crime gateway. If the system is to work at rehabilitating, and deterring crime the system needs to give criminal a second chance at life. Many ex-cons find it hard to get jobs because of their backgrounds; this forces many of them into criminal activity for food and shelter. The recidivism rates in the United States are high because the system is not rehabilitating people, and the system under its current way of operating never will.

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