The United States is regarded as having the world's highest incarceration rate. It has been estimated that the prisons are holding more than 2.3 million people as of now. Due to this reason, overcrowding is a significant issue in the prison system of the country. It is seen that for every hundred thousand population, there are seven hundred and forty eight inmates and this number is expected to increase. Due to the increased incarceration, the state and the federal prisons are made to release a decent number of ex-offenders every year. The trend of releasing has only been a result of the mass incarceration that the country has experienced. It was seen that during the 1972 till the 1997 period, the number of state and federal prisoners increased from 196,000 to a record of 1,159,000 (Mauer, 1999) In 2000, a total of 600,000 ex-offenders were released to the communities from where they came from initially (Lynch, 2001)
Many people believe that if the released prisoner is on parole or is assigned to a parole officer, he will stay stable and will be able to get back on track. However, this approach has also been considered impractical now. A major reason why this has failed is because a parole officer has too many cases on his hand. With case overload, lack of resources and will, the parole officer cannot engage in a significant intervention in the lives of persons let out on parole. (Travis et.al, 2001) Therefore, it has been seen that society wants the ex-offenders to manage their own reintegration into the society.
Unfortunately, the societies do not have the social or the economic burden to tolerate this massive reentry movement. The individuals re entering the society lack the support to get back on track and this causes them to commit crime again. It is seen that there is a lot of distance present between leaving prison and getting back on track. The community that the ex-offender goes back into has gone through many crucial economic, technological and social changes. It is up to the community and the government to make it easier for the prisoners to get back on track.
Coming out from prison, the first thing that is crucial is getting a decent means of earning. As it is known, employment is a basic need for every individual. It goes on to provide the person with income, social connections and feelings of contribution to the society. It should also be noted that employment gives a sense of responsibility and self-worth to the person. There are many barriers that are faced by ex-offenders in the process of employment. It has been noted that many employers are hesitant to hire persons who have a criminal past. These employers go on to state some other issues like lack of skills or lack of training. The ex-offenders who are released have a criminal record along with a minimal education and a lack of job skills. All of these factors significantly lower the chances of employability for these people. (Travis et.al, 2001)
The society has even gone to produce a tangled network of collateral consequences that go on to inhibit the ex-offenders will to get back into the society. The persons cannot reconnect to the economic and social structures that would ensure full participation in the society. (Chin & Holmes, 2002) For instance, the ex-offenders are restrained from attaining government benefits and voting disenfranchisement. These persons are basically excluded from certain professional licenses or certain business. They are refrained from educational grants and public housing. (Burton Jr. et.al, 1987) Even if the person is not willing to go for these things, the idea of being restrained puts them in serious doubt.
On one hand the society and the community wants them to get back on track and on the other hand they are making obstacles for them themselves. As mentioned above, these individuals lacked the basic support. With these barriers, the society itself removes the structural support and therefore makes it impossible for the ex-offenders to go for legal or legitimate means of obtaining a living. (Thompson, 2003)
These were just the economic and social reasons for why're entry is such a difficult task for the ex-offenders. The prisoners who are released are often affected with quite relevant physical and mental health problems. Heyrman (2000) has stated that many of the persons are affected with the mental health problems before they are incarcerated. These individuals are not treated in prison which only puts them in a worse mental state when they are released. The physical health of the individuals also worsens due to the alcohol and drug dependence that they had before being incarcerated. These individuals are not provided any sort of rehab and for this reason they have a strong tendency to relapse on those substances.
The ex-offenders are likely to suffer from life threatening mental and physical illnesses. Due to this reason, they require accessible treatment so that these conditions could be stabilized. The individuals need to be physical and mentally fit in order to get decent housing and employment. Unfortunately, the individuals are given little attention. There is immense pressure placed on the public health resource as of now. This is especially trouble in the low income communities where most of the reentering individuals are concentrated. For this reason, there are not many significant services present that would focus on the health of the ex-offenders.
This lenient perception about the ex-offender re entry has had a very predictable affect on crime (Thompson, 2003) Due to the lack of social and economic support; most of the people have gone to recidivate. Travis et al., (2001) stated that most of the persons who are released from prison go on to reoffend. The Bureau o f Justice Statistics revealed that in 1983, 11 states were accounted for 57% of the state prison release in that year. It was stated that for all those prisoners released, 63% of the prisoners went on to get arrested again for some sort of serious misdemeanor or felony (Beck & Shipley, 1989)
The reentry phenomenon and the attendant safety risk should also be considered through the viewpoint of the prisoner's family. It has been stated that as the number of prison releases increase, the impact of recidivism affects the families with a prior history of violence in the house. Regardless of what crime the criminals were convicted for, they will pose a risk to the families to which they return. The ex-offender has stayed in prison for a significant long period of time. In this period, there could have many changes occurred in the family members. The family members might have gone to get more educated and more socially ahead of the ex-offender. This leads to a feeling of frustration and incompetence in the ex-offender to begin with. These persons are already victims of decreased self-worth and shame. Things will only get worse if they feel like a stranger with their own family.
This is also a serious problem because it poses a risk to public safety and it increases chances of revictimization. If the persons who are released from prisons go on to be incarcerated again; this would not even solve the problem of mass overcrowding either. Not to mention, poor transition from prison to home also removes any hope of the individual becoming a productive citizen of the society. Furthermore, this impact is felt the most in some of the disadvantaged communities. These communities already have people with poor income and education. A high crime rate in those communities will only go on to make the matters worse.
This only raises interest to solve the problem and find an appropriate solution for it. Many have stated that mass incarceration and prison expansion is the solution to this problem. Some researchers have stated that national prison growth had played a significant role in decreasing crime. However, researchers also stated 25% of the decline in crime can be attributed to the prison expansion. However, 75% of the decrease in crime can be attributed to some other factors (Spellman, 2000) There is a constant debate on whether prison expansion would increase public safety. It should be noted that prison expansion does have its social and fiscal costs. Due to this reason, the society could opt for other ways to control this situation.
Clear and Rose et al., (2001) stated that mass incarceration has gone to increase crime rates. It has been stated that mass incarceration goes on to weaken the informal social structures that have long been interlinked to preventing crime. For instance, increasing incarceration will affect families, workforce participation of men in the community, individual and social capital. Increasing incarceration will go on to weaken these structures to the extent where crime would be less inhibited in the society. Another approach to manage the returning ex-offender population is to increase the interventions at a community level.