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Incarceration’s Three R’s

Non Violent Inmates

Webster’s dictionary defines recidivism as “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially to relapse into criminal behavior.” The United States has twenty five percent of the world’s inmates despite having only five percent of the world’s population. One major reason for our substantial incarceration rate arises from our high recidivism rate.

Bureau of Justice Statistics published the following recidivism statistics on April 22 of 2014, “An estimated two-thirds (68 percent) of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years. More than a third (37 percent) of prisoners who were arrested within five years of release were arrested within the first six months after their release, with more than half (57 percent) arrested by the end of the first year.”

Inadequate rehabilitation and insufficient re-entry programs have contributed heavily to the shameful recidivism rates in the United States. This does not mean that all prisons do not have adequate and/or good rehabilitation programs. It also does not mean that all of our states and local communities do not have supportive re-entry programs. However, the high recidivism rates do show that the majority of our prisons, jails, and communities are failing with rehabilitation and re-entry.

Rehabilitation is defined as “To teach (a criminal in prison) to live a normal and productive life.” For decades our penal system has had a schizophrenic battle between punishment and rehabilitation. It may not be politically correct, but think of our prisons as factories. If the prison factory is focused only on punishment within a brutal environment, then the product, a released inmate, will probably commit a crime. If a prison focuses on effective rehabilitation programs such as education (not only vocational programs), addiction programs,and effective health care for the mentally ill, then a returning citizen shall have the tools to become a productive member of society.

Teresa Miller, a professor at the University of Buffalo has studied New York prisons. The professor’s studies have shown the connection between education and lowering recidivism. Professor Miller has stated,

“When you consider that an inmate simply participating in a college program reduces his likelihood of re-offending after release by 46 percent, the impact of college coursework is impressive.  When you consider that an inmate who earns a college degree in prison reduces his likelihood of re-offending from a national average of 60 percent to a mere 5.6 percent, the impact is astounding.”

Without effective re-entry programs; rehabilitation will not succeed and recidivism will remain high.  Many returning citizens need a safe–stable place to stay upon their release. Returning citizens may have drug and alcohol addictions, many have mental health issues, most are not educated, and a criminal record will substantially reduce their chances for employment. In some states, the unemployment rate for released inmates is 50 percent.

For example, Michigan spends $35,000 a year to incarcerate an individual. It costs more than $35,000 a year to educate a University of Michigan student. Six years ago, the state decided to focus on the problems of reentry. Michigan now has saved more than $200 million annually by implementing aggressive job placement programs. Robert Satterfield, a 46 year old Michigan resident was imprisoned for almost six years for embezzlement. For months, he was unable to find employment. A successful re-entry program, 70Times 7, gave him guidance and training. The program found a job for him with a local metalworking company. During a 16 month period, he received several raises, and was earning $13.00 an  hour. The company owner stated that he has six former inmates employed and they were among his best employees.

It is not rocket science–effective rehabilitation and re-entry programs reduce recidivism.

By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

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2 Responses to Incarceration’s Three R’s

  1. PrisonPath July 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Chris Wilson, Ph.D. Candidate I agree and would add that recent research on desistance includes alternative narratives which help inmates begin to see themselves in a new light including their potential and prospects. I have enjoyed teaching social-emotional skills to inmates for 3 years now and have learned as much as I’ve taught. I’m optimistic that we’re headed in a better direction

  2. BARRY S. DIAMOND July 24, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    You have a wonderful article I just believe it is missing one R
    RESPECT!!!
    I am talking about respect being given to the released inmate by his/her community upon arrival back. Accept them back because they are your neighbors, brothers, sisters, wives, fathers, mothers & the person you see in the store down the block.

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