In the American society, prisons or correctional facilities are seen as weapons of choice in the fight against crime. They are seen as multipurpose institutions which include exaction of retribution in the event of breaking the law, this correctional facilities separate the law breakers from the rest of the community so that they do not commit more crimes. They are also meant to deter the general population from committing crimes and discouraging incarcerated offenders from breaking the law once they are released from prison.
In the U.S.A. The population in prison is increasing at a very high rate. In the last few decades the prison population has risen three fold and more. This increase places a heavy burden on the federal, state or local government finance, it's of greater concern and importance therefore to cut down the number of population in prison, in this respect to accomplish this, the number of recidivists must reduce.
In the context of criminal justice, the term recidivism is defined as the relapse into criminal behavior by an individual after being convicted of a prior offence and sentenced. This reversion of behavior can be attributed to a number of failures: an individual's failure to live up to the expectations of the society or the society's failure to provide for the individual. This relapse can also be attributed to the failure of the individual to stay away from trouble, as an offender the failure of the person to escape or avoid being arrested or convicted. The other reason could be due to failure of correctional institutions to provide rehabilitative programs or individual's failure of taking advantage of available correctional programs.
This relapse into criminal activity can be measured by the return into prison by a former inmate for committing a new offence. Since time immemorial in the American society prisons were seen to be the weapon in the fight against crime. They are seen as institutions which serve multiple purposes including exaction of retribution in the event of breaking the law, the prison institution separates lawbreakers from the rest of the population in the sense that they do not commit more crimes, they are also used to deter the general public from committing crimes and discouraging incarcerated offenders from breaking the law once they are released from jail.
Lastly avoiding future offences through deterrence and rehabilitation measured by the recidivism rate considered as the leading statistical indicator of the return on investment on correctional. recidivism rate can be evaluated as the proposition of a person's released from prison who are later rearrested, reconvicted or returned to custody in a specified period of time as a result of the person committing a new crime resulting in new conviction, or on technically violating supervisions such as failure to report to their parole or probation officer or failing a drug test.
In America people are incarcerated in federal, state or local correctional facilities well-known as prison, this correctional facilities combined together pose as an expensive venture to maintain. There has been a substantial growth of prison population in the last few decades; also on the rise is the number of people under probation and parole. In 2006 alone, the rate of U.S. incarceration reached 497 per 100,000 residents (William J. et al.2006).
Recent surveys from the federal government bureau of statics indicate that there are more than 2.2 million individuals in jail and more than 5 million are under probation and parole this indicates that more than 2.5% of American population is under supervision by the law enforcement agencies, this figures are increasing for one reason for sure, more people are brought to correctional facilities than they are released.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Key Crime & Justice Facts at a Glance,"
Correctional population chart, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/corr2.htm.
If this trend continues there is a likelihood of putting more devastating pressure on the already stressed correctional facilities. To accommodate the prison population obviously translates to spending huge sum of money in terms of construction of new facilities, hiring of specialists to supervise inmates, their health care, education and so forth. Then what? Should the criminals be released since we may not have room to accommodate them or it's costly to hold them in jail it doesn't make sense at all.
Each year American taxpayers money is increasingly spent on correctional facilities, in the last 25 years according to the bureau of statistics surveys there has been an increase of over 600%, in 2005 alone more than $200billion dollars was spent on federal, state and local correctional facilities.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Key Crime & Justice Facts at a Glance,
This is a trend however as civilized society cannot afford to allow continue. There are programs that must be employed to reduce the prison population in our facilities ignorance of these amounts to fiscal irresponsibility.
Studies have shown that there are three specific programmed components that have found positive effects on offenders and are related to the reduction of recidivism namely:
a) Educational programs,
b) Substance abuse treatment and mental health services
c) Employment services such as job preparedness and career development.
For many inmates lower education standards are a major hindrance to access employment. To enter into labor markets individuals require basic educational skills, most correctional facilities have educational programs varying from course work to vocational training, however these programs are on restricted slots which means only a small proportion of inmates are able o participate. However nonetheless the better way to help prisoners reenter society successfully and reduce the in and out of jail cycle is to equip them with skills they require in order to be successful and useful in the larger outside world.
Several studies carried out have come to one common agreement that education within prison wall do actually reduce recidivism. An inmate who participated in a General Education Development (GED) program in prison is 16% less likely to relapse into criminal activity than the one who didn't participate in any of the educational program, also of inmates who participated in educational programs recidivated 29% less than those who didn't (stephene j. et al.2003).
Prison education in reality is of benefit especially to the participating prisoner in particular, the correctional facility system and the society in general. Participating in these correctional programs of education the inmates are offered a real opportunity to acquire skills needed to lead a crime free life after they are released, inmates who have participated in education programs have exhibited the ability to seek for jobs after release and most importantly the ability to keep the jobs.
It is of significance to state that if education can increase the amount of money an ex-convict earns it will probably became expensive for the individual to commit additional crimes, since the person will be preoccupied most of the time in the workforce to earn money. What does this mean; the society becomes a safe place free of criminals, the tax base of the government increases and fewer burdens is exerted on the correctional and welfare systems.
Substance abuse treatment and mental health services
Mental illness and substance abuse is predominantly higher among the prison population than the larger general society, this works as a prohibitive hindrance to acquisition of a decent job and are directly related to higher rates of recidivism, this has prompted some people to argue that substance abuse is the primary cause of recidivism.
Successful results have been demonstrated through drug treatment programs. Over the past two decades studies have exhibited the possibility that drug treatment have reduced the occurrence of criminal behavior and increased longetivity of time out of crime for released inmates (fayes 1998) this can however be achieved through proper coordination with organizations that specialize in this areas in order to provide rehabilitation services and treatment for inmates both in prison and after the release.
Substance abuse can also be addressed by the use of drug courts. These courts originated in the 1990s as a result of prison overcrowding, these courts largely hear cases involving non-violent drug related offences, instead of being imprisoned, and individuals who qualify are given a choice to engage in extensive substance abuse treatment program.
A study carried out in the District of Columbia shows that offender are four times less likely to continue using drugs when sanctioned, that is to say punished for drug use or noncompliance and rewarded for good performance (fayes 1998) therefore the adoption of this measures both in prison and outside prison for released inmates is one key to reducing recidivism.
Treatment for mental illness
Rates of mental illness including among others disorders such as psychosis, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder are predominantly prevalent in prison population than general public. In conjunction with substance abuse mental illness amounts to the main hindrances to the employability of individuals as well as the societal reintegration.
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