Recidivism is one major problem facing various societies across the world. It involves acts committed by people which involve repeating undesirable behaviors after being trained or treated to extinguish the behavior or experiencing negative consequences due to the behavior. Recidivism is common with criminal behavior or substance abuse but for purposes of this paper, we will focus on criminal behavior. Recidivism is a behavior which is linked to psychopathy which is gratification enjoyed after committing an aggressive, sexual or criminal act by a person. Psychopaths hardly learn from past mistakes and they are likely to repeat them in future. In the United States, recidivism among prisoners is a serious problem facing prison institutions. Statistics show that on average, 58% of female prisoners and 68% of male prisoners are rearrested after being released from prison. Of these, 39% of females and 53% of males are sent back to prison again (Bleich, 2000). This is a serious threat to rehabilitation purpose of prisons since it appears that prisons are failing in their objective of rehabilitating prisoners.
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The environment inside prisons is not conducive for rehabilitation most of the times since crimes are committed even inside prisons. There are also environmental factors outside prisons which make it a challenge for prisoners to be accepted by the society after serving their terms. These too contribute to the high rates of recidivism. It is important to assess the factors which contribute to the high recidivism rates and the solutions to the same. This will enable prison institutions to succeed in their rehabilitative role which they play in society. This paper will address criminal recidivism and suggest solutions for the same. Scholarly journals will be used to support theories advanced. The discussed issues will be summarized at the end.
Purpose of prisons in US justice system
The prison institution plays a crucial role in any society. In the US justice system, the prison system plays various roles. The first major role is rehabilitation. Prisons offer people convicted of crimes a second chance to learn from their mistakes and change. It provides prisoners with an environment where they can learn new skills which will enable them to earn a decent livelihood once they are released from prison. More importantly, the prison environment is meant to assist prisoners to reflect on their lives and seek ways which they may co-exist peacefully with the society. Mental and physical health professionals are present to assist prisoners with this objective. Another important role played by prisons is punishment and deterrence. Punishment is meant to discourage the prisoners and other members of society from committing a similar offence. Different forms of punishments vary according to crimes committed and usually the worse the crime, the heavier the punishment received by the prisoner. Punishment varies from strokes to hard labor depending on the sentence given. This role of prisons is very important since it deters other members of society from committing offences. Punishment is likely to discourage other people from engaging in criminal activities and this ensures the society lives in peace and harmony.
Another important role played by the prison system is ensuring justice for victims of crime. This is an important role in any judicial system since the law is founded on equity and justice. Victims who are hurt in one way or another ought to receive justice in order to view society as fair. Although in many cases, especially capital offences such as murder, do not compensate the victim for loss suffered, prisons ensure victims have closure since the people who commit the offence are normally punished. Finally, prisons are meant to protect the general public from people who are a threat to their property or lives. Some criminals such as serial killers or rapists are psychopaths who would not stop committing the crimes unless they are rehabilitated. Prison removes such people from the streets and rehabilitates them, making society a safer place to live. This fosters unity and peace within society.
Current conditions in US prisons
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. According to Farrington and Nuttall (2001), the largest prisons in the US which are Texas and California have experienced an eight fold increase in a 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 for the needs of the prisoners. The US has only about 5% of the world population yet its prisons have more than 25% of the worldâ€™s prisoners, which 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 health care professionals who would assist them with their mental and physical needs. Congestion also makes prisoners interact with people from different backgrounds at 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 on time and to take the necessary action to discourage the vices.
Another problem which is inherent in modern US prison environments is social vices and criminal behavior. Many prisoners engage in crimes within prison due to influence from peers or collaboration with unethical prison wardens. These crimes include substance abuse, immoral behavior or violent acts against each other. There are established drug rings inside many prisons and prisoners have access to drugs as long as they can access funds to finance the same. Many prisoners who have drug problems are taken to prison instead of drug rehabilitation facilities and they continue abusing these drugs inside prison. Corruption within prison allows some wardens to assist prisoners in accessing drugs. This defeats the central role of prisons which is rehabilitation. Finally, poor finance of prison systems makes it difficult for prison systems to teach prisoners skills which would be useful to the outside world. Since many prisoners commit crimes out of desperation and due to lack of employment, when they are released without these crucial skills they find themselves forced to commit illegal activities to survive and they end up in prison again. These problems inside modern US problems should be addressed if criminal recidivism is to drastically reduce.
Programs which seek to reduce recidivism in US prisons
Although many prisons do not have adequate facilities and personnel to undertake programs which reduce prison recidivism, there are a few prisons which 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 ate reducing recidivism among people who have been put on probation (Wilson, 2003). This program aims at making people on probation on the importance of probation and the consequences of breaking probation conditions. It is specifically targeted at people with problems satisfying probation conditions. In California and Texas, there are various programs aimed at educating prisoners on the adverse effects of gang culture and substance abuse in society. The programs aim at ending gang culture and substance abuse through making offenders aware of the harm they cause to society when they engage in the vice. In most states, there is also program geared towards providing life skills to inmates in prison in order to allow them to practice decent professions when they leave prison. Although such programs are under-funded, they teach prisoners skills such as carpentry, IT skills, mechanics, hair dressing, appliance repair, building and other skills. This is one of the most efficient ways to reduce crime recidivism since they empower inmates to become independent once they leave prison facilities.
Current approaches to protect the public upon a prisoner’s release
There are various approaches which states take to ensure that crime recidivism is reduced and that the public is protected from ex-prisoners upon their release. The first approach involves liaising with employment agencies to ensure such prisoners acquire decent employment. This is a very effective strategy since once prisoners are independent; they are less likely to engage in crime. States usually have programs which link skills learned by prisoners in prison with employment opportunities present in society. Another strategy which is used by many states involves probation. Probation is meant to safeguard the public against criminals through supervision of inmatesâ€™ behaviors after release to ascertain whether they have reformed. This is a relatively ineffective strategy since it does not aim at helping the inmate reform but is meant to protect the public from harm (Roger, 2004). Addressing the causes of crime recidivism is the most effective approach to dealing with the problem. Finally, a few states hold discussion with communities and develop ways to integrate prisoners into society. It involves talking to community leaders, religious leaders and non-governmental organizations and developing a positive attitude towards released convicts. It assists such prisoners to live with their families and find employment opportunities in order to prevent engaging in crime. This is also another effective approach to reducing crime recidivism although it is not effectively implemented in many states.
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Recommendations to end recidivism upon release of inmates
Although some of the programs currently being implemented to reduce crime recidivism in society are effective, more needs to be done to discourage this trend. The first steps should be to rehabilitate prisoners in prison and teach them skills which would make them economically independent once they leave prison institutions. This can only be done effectively if the problem of overcrowding, substance abuse and immoral activities among other crimes is addressed in prison. Strict laws which deter involvement in crime by prison wardens or prisoners should be passed and such laws should be punitive to discourage the crimes. In order to deal with overcrowding, adequate financing should be provided y the state to build more prisons to reduce overcrowding in prisons. In addition, alternative forms of punishments for petty offenders which include probation should be enforced in order to reduce the prison population in the United States.
Once crime and overcrowding are addressed in prisons, prisoners will have access to healthcare practitioners to cater for their physical and mental needs. In addition, they will have access to training opportunities which will empower them once they leave prison. More funds should be allocated by states and the central government to ensure that there is enough facilities and personnel to rehabilitate prisoners and empower them with life skills. Prisoners who have substance abuse problems should have access to rehabilitation centers which address their problems since mere incarceration in prison does not help them end their addiction. Psychopaths should also have access to mental health experts who will use medication and alternative therapies to treat these mental disorders.
Once prisoners have reformed and they have been imparted with these skills, it is important to cultivate a positive image in society so that they may be embraced and integrated back into society. This should involve dialogue with the community and religious leaders as well as their families in order to offer them support in beginning a new life. Once the prisoners are embraced back into society, they are less likely to commit a crime again. However, in addition to acceptance, by society, they should have employment opportunities which assist them to meet their daily needs. This is the best way to ensure that they do not engage in crime. Since they will already have skills, the state and correction facilities should collaborate in seeking opportunities where the prisoners can practice the skills which they have learned. They should be provided with financial and mental support by their families and community once they begin their careers in order to ensure that they succeed in life.
Summary and conclusion
Prison recidivism has been seen to b a major problem which faces the US prison system. Many prisoners who are released from prison end up committing a crime again due to several reasons. The major causes of prison recidivism are lack of skills which prisoners may use to empower themselves once they leave prison, inadequate physical and mental support from health care practitioners and counselors, high crime rates in prison and overcrowding in prison. Prison facilities are overcrowded and expose prisoners to crime within prison walls, a fact which makes it difficult for them to be integrated back into society once they are released. Although there are various programs which are currently being implemented by different prisons to reduce crime recidivism, these programs are few and under-funded. As a result, many prisoners do not benefit from them.
In order to solve the problem of prison recidivism in US prisons, overcrowding and crime in prison should be first tacked through prison expansion, alternative rehabilitation forms and passage of harsh laws which guard against crime in prison. Once this is addressed, prisoners should have access to personnel, facilities and training which will satisfy their needs and impart them with skills in line with the rehabilitation objective. Finally, the society should accept them back through dialogue with families and community leaders who should provide moral and financial support to inmates. The state and correction facility should ensure that such prisoners have access to employment opportunities in line with their skills in order to empower them to be independent. Once these steps are taken, prisoners will have no reason to revert back to crime and the problem of crime recidivism will be solved once and for all.
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