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Prison Recidivism Essay

Under criminal justice, prisons were created not only to keep the morally corrupt persons away from society but also to rehabilitate these persons. However, in some cases, prison does not serve as rehabilitation for some people. These people once re-introduced back to the society either repeat the same thing that sent them away from society or commit a new crime that sends them back to prison. This is known as prison recidivism. Recidivism is the repeat of a mistake, by a person who has already faced the consequences of committing such an action. In the case of prison recidivism, this is where the convicted persons who had already been sentenced to prison and finished their sentences get to go back to prison for committing similar or different crimes. In the US, the rate of recidivism is measured according to the based on the re-arrest or reconviction of an individual.

The bureau of justice statistics established that in the US, the rate of recidivism is very high. For example, according to a research conducted and released in 2007, a number of facts were established. This included the fact that while at the beginning of the year 1.2 million people on parole were at risk of re-incarceration, at the end of the year, 16% of these number had been returned to incarceration. The department found that out of the 300,000 prisoners that had been released from prison in1994, 67.5% had been rearrested in a span of three years. This number has increased by 5% from 1983. The same report found that almost more than 90% of those who were reconvicted either were charged with a worse felony or were resentenced for a new crime. These statistics have since gone high.
Finally, the bureau was able to determine the crimes that had the highest re-arrest rates. On top of this list were motor vehicle thieves with a seventy eight percent rate, other crimes that followed included burglars, larcenists, robbers, those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons. It was also found that in a span of three years, 2.5% of rapists who had been released were rearrested for another rape (Bureau of Justice Statistics report).

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Reasons for the high numbers as well as solutions to these problems

There are a number of reasons as to why an individual who had already been convicted will opt to go back to prison. Once a convict has been released, the states responsibility ends at the prison door. The former convict is left to figure out a way in which they can go back into a society that they left a while back and fit. The criminal justice system is ill equipped to help them properly re-enter society. Most of these people do not have skill that they can fall into which makes even finding a job a difficult task for them. There is also the fact that the people whom they committed crimes against are not always readily willing to forgive. There is also the fact that most of the ex-con are battling stigma borne from the society who always see them as ‘bad people’. This results to lack of jobs because people cannot hire ex-cons as well as less interaction by people who think of them as dangerous (Taxman et.al, 26).

Most of these people face temptations from bad company that they used to accompany before imprisonment. These bad companies always end up corrupting the rehabilitated morals and before they know it, they are committing crime again. It is important that these people are kept busy so that they cannot seek older corruptive company. It is imperative that measures are put in place that will remove the temptation to return to crime. This includes where necessary, monetary assistance.

The government should put up a program that will equip these people with skills that they can use once they have re-entered society. They should also establish a fund that will be available for this people to foster the skills they have learnt in prison so that they can make a living for themselves. The public should also be sensitized through campaigns of the role of prisons as a rehabilitation tool and that they should treat the ex-convicts as people who have paid their debt to society and must be forgiven and embraced by society (Latessa et.al, p.72). At a smaller scale, there have been attempts to try and reduce the rate of reconviction by individual organizations as well as states.

People and groups have come up with aid centers where these convicts are slowly trained on how they can re-enter the society. In these centers, not only is guidance and training given but the ex-convicts, but they also get to interact with people like themselves who want to change. However, this is always at a smaller scale (Travis, p.11). On the upper side, the state of Michigan has recently been able to introduce such a program where the convicts are entered into a society re-entry program just before their release. Since the introduction of this program, the state has been able to reduce their prison population by 12% (The Pew Charitable Trusts report). This is a trend that should be followed by all the other states the US to be able to reduce the huge prison recidivism numbers in the country.


  • Latessa, Edward J, and Paula Smith. Corrections in the Community. Burlington: Elsevier Science, 2011. Print.
    Recidivism. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • State of Recidivism: the Revolving Door of America’s Prisons. The Pew Charitable Trusts.
  • Taxman, Faye S, and April Pattavina. Simulation Strategies to Reduce Recidivism: Risk Need Responsivity (rnr) Modeling for the Criminal Justice System. New York, NY: Springer, 2013. Print.
  • Travis, Jeremy, and Christy A. Visher. Prisoner Reentry and Crime in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.
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