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In some nations, inmates are released early because of budget deficits and shortages. This is taken as one method of saving money even though this release has been one interesting debate in countries like United States. The U.S. Department of Justice indicates that there are only an approximate 53% of state and federal inmates who are in prison for violent crimes. The remaining percentage is made up of public order, drug and property criminals. Proposals for early release of inmates normally exclude violent criminals but media mostly highlights the threat this has to public. But whether its early release or the inmate is released after serving the complete sentence, recidivism is a common practice for a good number of them. There is no guarantee that they will not commit their previous crimes again even if they have gone through the appropriate rehabilitation centers. Others may engage themselves in other petty crimes in the society because they may not have financial support, they may be homeless or even worse some may still have the mental disorders they had before they were imprisoned. Thus, it's a clear indication that societies face several dangers once criminals are released. The main goal of this research paper is to describe the risks associated with release of inmates.
According to different reports, about 500, 000 Americans in prisons were released in 2003 and they returned to the society. Interestingly, these people were largely unskilled, had no family support, uneducated, and still had the stigma of their prison record hanging over them and thus many have since experienced serious psychological and social problems even after release. In every three prisoners in U.S. fewer than one of them receive mental health treatment or substance abuse while incarcerated. As they approach release, fewer and fewer do participate in educational and vocational pre-release programs. This leaves them still unemployable when they return to society. Unsurprisingly, many of them are rearrested and mostly this takes place within the first six months after release.
Recidivism, a repeat offense resulting in conviction is common among most criminals (Blogs.myspace.com 1). For example, the United States Department of Justice reported that out of 272,111 persons released from prisons in 1994, 67.5% of them were rearrested for a serious misdemeanor or a felony within the first three years. In the same number, 46.9% of them were reconvicted while 25.4% were re-sentenced to prison because of a new crime (Blogs.myspace.com 1). This indicates between a quarter and two-thirds of released inmates normally return to prison every year. It is quite dangerous for the society since statistics indicate that sex offenders are especially four times more likely to be reconvicted for sex related crimes compared to non-sex offenders. But highest recidivism rate is reported in burglars, robbers and other violent offenders. These rates are damaging to the society as people have to experience similar crimes from the same criminals severally.
Running of prisons and other correctional centers in the country requires a lot of investment in terms of resources. We therefore release in order create space for new inmates. But the moment the convicts are released they commit more crimes. A sex offender if released is more likely to commit another sex related crime and this creates damage to another family. It therefore means that for most criminals, relapse even after being in the correctional centers still remains imminent.
Surprisingly, majority of inmates after being released still engage in crime. After all, these are people who had serious needs even before they were imprisoned, they were untreated while in prison, and after release, they face a staggering number of financial and personal problems. Recently, USA Today had its cover story on prisoner reentry titled "Unready, Unrehabilitated, and Up for Release" (Petersilia 139). This was referring to the inmates who had just been released. There are different offenders who have ever been released from custody only to come back into the society to commit similar crimes or even other dangerous ones. These keep haunting several families in most countries and a good example that the United States of America population may not forget is horrendous crimes committed by Richard Allen Davis and Willie Horton. In recent times, there has been an assumption that released inmates pose the greatest risks to public safety. This is the reason why prisoner reentry has been on the emphasis in several states.
There are possibilities that released inmates do commit the same crimes or new crimes when they are back in the society. There is a clear data as from 1994 showing that two-thirds of released inmates are rearrested and taken back to jail after committing a new crime within the first three years after being released. Rearrest rates of 1994 are 5% higher compared to those of 1983. The society suffers a great deal especially from public order, violent and drugs crimes. This is because recidivism rates for these kinds of crimes are very high. Research shows that young criminals and those who have longer criminal records are more likely to be rearrested. Recidivism is seen to increase during the first year after release. In fact, several analysts in United States showed that records of 1994 on parole release cohort had the highest responsibility of about 5% for the serious crimes and arrests occurring in the three- year follow-up duration.
The society has the burden to cater for the rearrested criminals. Since the rate of committing crimes is high for those who have been released, more is spent on supervision and giving of other relevant services in the reentry programs. Records show that more than 85% of parolees are always on caseloads and they are seen less than twice in a month. To add, the budget that is available for their services and supervision in these facilities amounts to $1,800 for every offender (Petersilia 140). It's not a surprise that recidivism rates in most nations are very high. This is comprehensive data that tells us that the parole systems in place rarely help offenders and moreover they don't protect the public.
Recidivism is dangerous to our society since even criminals with dangerous diseases like HIV/AIDS may be released and if they were involved in sex assault previously, they may commit the same crimes. Rates of recidivism in such cases are creating fears in most citizens. A good example of such reports was released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics titled Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994. This is a study that tracked 272,111 prisoners who hade been discharged in 15 states in U.S (Petersilia 140). Recidivism data was gathered on serious misdemeanors and felonies. This study found that 67% of former inmates were rearrested for one new serious crime within three years after release in 1994. Out of this population studied, 47% were convicted of a new crime, 52% returned to prison because of a new crime or a technical violation like drug test failure. The 272,111 offenders accumulated to 744,000 serious criminal charges for the first three years after release. 25.4% of released prisoners were later rearrested and imprisoned because of a new crime committed in the follow-up duration.
These records show that people have to brace themselves for robbery, selling and possession of stolen property, burglary and stealing motor vehicle crimes after criminals have been released. These records increase fears for the society since they indicate that rearrest rates were high for prisoners incarcerated of possessing and selling stolen property (77%), stealing motor vehicles (79%), burglary (74%), trafficking, using illegal weapons (70%) and robbery (70%) (Petersilia 141). Overall recidivism rate for those convicted of property related crimes originally reached 73.8%. Drug offenders who were 32% of the total inmate cohort released recorded a rearrest rate of 66.7%. These rates of recidivism indicate the increasing risk on public safety. There is a fact according to these data that almost half of all prisoners are reincarcerated with the first three years after release. This indicates that the tax payer has to continue to pay for the incarceration of these individuals (Siegel 555). Moreover, part from inducing fear on the general public, these crimes committed destroy community life.
One traditional method used in reducing prison overcrowding has been the use of early release on parole. Some inmates who have served a minimum percentage of their sentences as stipulated by law are released earlier not because they are adequately rehabilitated or punished but because the moment they leave they create a new room for a new inmate. Since 1991, many states in U.S. have created emergency release programs. For example, by 1991, Washington D.C. was leading with more than 2,200 premature inmate releases. But the public was not happy with such arrangements. The release of Willie Horton raised a political debate in 1988 presidential campaign in United States. At that time, George Bush decided to challenge Michael Dukakis who was the Democratic candidate for Massachusetts (Durham 52). Bush wanted Dukakis to explain why Horton had been released on furlough before his sentence had been concluded. Willie Horton went to Maryland and committed serious crimes. In Florida, a state prisoner was also prematurely released and he ended killing a Miami police officer and this provoked an outrage from the public. Moreover, Texas also released a convict in 1990 one year before his sentence was concluded and he also shot to death a Houston police officer in a traffic stop (Durham 53). This research shows that a concluded sentence and a premature release still have consequences on the public as there is still potential for more crimes to be committed.
There are estimations that an average male prisoner returning to the city in Maryland can only have $50 in his pocket. Moreover, such a prisoner owes $8,000 for child support, with no means of transportation, no ability to obtain employment and no place to live. These are economic barriers that may be complicated even more by the mental and physical condition of the released convict. There is also high incidence of alcohol and other drugs abuse among prisoners. Aging inmates require comprehensive health-care needs. Other studies have shown that there is always one in every five mentally ill prisoners leaving prison or jail. This is a set of problems that makes successful reentry into the society to be more difficult. This shows why it is not surprisingly when the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 67.5% of released prisoners are rearrested and 51.8% taken back to prison within the first three years after release. In connection to this, there is a special case for sex offenders. There are worries for relapse and this is why there is a public outrage due to released sex offenders. Studies indicate that rearrest rates for rape convicts and other sexual assault crimes are not higher than average. But eventual return of such convicts creates high levels of anxiety in most communities. This is what has forced the American criminal justice system for example to devise unique strategies to deal with such issues. For example, seven year old Megan Kanka from New Jersey was raped and murdered by a pedophile who had been convicted twice before for the same crime. He has gone into her neighborhood after he was released on parole. Public outrage forced the state to pass laws that were collectively known as New Jersey Sexual Offender Registration Act. This was also refereed to as the "Megan's Law" (Miller and Gaines 359). This is a law requiring the local authorities to always inform the public that a sex offender has been released. These laws are designed so that the communities learn more on the identities of released sex offenders who are in their neighborhood. These are acts that usually haunt the families of the victims for a long period of time. Such a child raped may be left with a dangerous disease and may fail to attain her self-esteem.
Some inmates have to be released if their sentence has been successfully completed but this should not happen in case there is a possibility that after assessment, that criminal may commit a crime again. It is understandable that overcrowding forces some countries to release some of their inmates even before the sentence has been concluded. If this must be done, we must take considerations of what might befall the community at large since relapse according to this research is a common practice among most convicts. A country that decides to prematurely release its prisoners risks the lives of many and some of the community members may loose their property, lives or be infected with dangerous diseases through rape. Various researches have shown that sex offenders are four times more likely to commit other sex related crimes compared to non-sex offenders. Other offenders still have high rates of recidivism and thus it shows generally, release of inmates no matter what type of crime committed is dangerous to the community.