Caleb A. Field, first year writing UNC Asheville student
Reincarceration is a commonly overlooked problem in today’s society. This problem’s severity has been exponentially increasing in the last few years, crippling our society more and more every year. Tax money has been given to prisons in order to support the mass incarceration taking place in our country today, yet only a fraction of that money has been given to help with the rehabilitation of these ex-convicts desperately need. When analyzing correctional facilities and their methods of rehabilitation, we find flaws in their methods such as a lack of socialization, lack of education, lack of future opportunities and a lack in overall assistance needed leading to recidivism for the majority of ex-convicts.
Convicts face multiple obstacles during their lifetime that hinder their opportunities for success. Alienation is a burden that the majority of ex-cons must face but is not unfamiliar, most of them experienced this obstacle in their younger years too. Another common trait shared by most convicts is an insubstantial home life. “Many prisoners had experienced abuse (29%) or experienced violence at home (49%) (mostly by a family member with alcoholism or a drug addiction)” (Williams, Booth, 2012 pg.8) at an early age causing malignant development in prisoners leading them to their irrational behaviors and beliefs. “Fifty nine percent of prisoners in their adolescence struggled socially and academically with about 63% being suspended” (Williams, Booth, 2012 pg.9) which separated them from social interaction at a young age, establishing a socially awkward behavior commonly shown in prisoners. Prisoners find themselves struggling to make conversation with the general public due to their lack of socializing skills; which leads back to the faulty rehabilitation of correctional facilities. Introducing safe social scenarios to prisoners will provide them with a skill that will help them overcome this conversational barrier which will assist them (post-incarceration) when talking to potential employers.
Education has proven itself to be a viable aspect in individuals as well as to national development. It provides people with general tools that are useful in everyday life as well as in jobs. Education is so dynamic it provides success but for those who do not obtain it they statistically have a higher chance (69%) (Alliance findings, 2013) at being involved in criminal activity and falling into the prison system. The prison system majority of inmates are uneducated and during their correctional rehabilitation they are mainly forced to do manual work that provides them with minimal skills that won’t help them in their post-release. To determine the effect education would have on prisoners, a study was analyzed stating that “the odds of obtaining employment postrelease among inmates receiving correctional education are 13 percent higher than the odds of obtaining employment postrelease among inmates not receiving correctional education” (Miles, Davis, Steele 2013 pg.8) which helps reinforce the idea of education being implemented in correctional facilities. People look down on this idea due to two main reasons, cost and reliability. Reliability of educating and employing convicts is found to be a risk but can be beneficial at the same time. Cost of employment for ex-convicts is lower than the average person and if they are employed they provide tax money instead of taking it away in reincarceration. Now the cost of implementing education throughout prisons would be about “$1400 per inmate” (Davis, Steele, Williams, 2014 pg.10), but if you factor in the smaller chance of recidivism, prisons are proven to save around “$900,000 ($300,000 per year) over a three year incarceration period” on average (Davis, Steele, Williams, 2014 pg.10). Education is a viable resource that is a valuable asset to have that employers are drawn to. By educating prisoners, not only do we decrease recidivism commonly seen but also save money that can be used for furthering education across prisons.
The common denominator between convicts that experience recidivism is the lack of opportunities open to them after their sentence. Employers evade convicts leaving them with a minimal amount of jobs to choose from.. Because of this states “do what is possible to help releases obtain suitable employment” (Gehring, 2018 pg.9) but the jobs they are usually offered are low paying grunt work that is almost impossible to make a living off of. Due to this, prisoners fall back to their old illegal ways, (the way they lived before) usually robbing areas or selling drug which leads them back to their prison cell they will continue to live in and out of. Most prisoners find themselves in prison because they were looked at by the government as “victimizers, but once they were removed from their communities and confined in "cages," they were surely the victims” (Gehring, 2018 pg.10) made by the justice system. Determination of the impact of “Recidivism is most frequently used to identify the success of one specific institutional program” (Gehring, 2018 pg.10) but does not measure the success of individuals who got out of the system. If this was included in the studies done about recidivism a pattern of poverty would be observed in ex-convicts. In order to provide prisoners with skills they can use in the working force more “vocational education programs should be more adept than traditional academic education programs at imparting labor market skills, awarding industry-recognized credentials, and connecting inmates with prospective employers” giving them valid references to increase their chance at receiving a beneficial job. Convicts are not desired as employees due to their status, but if rehabilitation was implemented, convicts would have credentials that would actually grasp employers attention, increasing a convicts chance of becoming employed at a well paying job.
People all around are affected by recidivism, from indirect taxing to the more direct friend or family stand point. My dad took a chance by hiring an ex-convict once who experienced incarceration. He started working for just over minimum wage (due to his record), but was one of the most efficient and hardest working people I knew. But later, we saw his efficiency decreasing due to his ongoing addiction which continued until the day of his rearrest. This created a negative image toward hiring ex-convicts for my dad. Now I find him more reluctant to hire convicts, especially the ones that are users. Thinking back, I wonder what type of help he received in prison to get rid of his addiction, or (more probable) did he not receive any. Ongoing rehabilitation could have stopped an instance like this which would have prevented his return to prison. I interviewed Jessica Pisano, a future teacher at a correctional facility, about recidivism occurring in our current day and why she has decided to be apart of the solution. She stated that “instead of punishing someone for a crime, they should rehabilitate them, enabling them to have opportunities in their future” (Pisano, 2018). “Once the "get tough on crime" sentiment evolves into a "smart on crime" agenda” (Gehring, 2018 pg.9) we will start to see change within prisoners by inspiring hope and aspirations within them instead of creating a hateful and regretful attitude towards society.
By analyzing the current correctional facilities and the structure provided to rehabilitate prisoner, flaws are easily found in their socialization and educational methods, leading to their substandard rehabilitation program that does not create opportunities for prisoners but diminish them. By implementing better educational programs, increasing socialization, and “providing individual motivators to give positive reinforcement” (Doug Hooley, 2010) we will provide convicts with aspirations for success, which will lower the rate of recidivism as well as the amount of tax dollars spent to keep convicts incarcerated. In order to support the reformation of convicts, society should alter their views associated toward a “criminal” to allow a struggling convict to get back on his feet. This altered view starts with every individual and without their support, ex-convicts won’t have a chance at becoming a self-sustaining citizen.
Davis, L., Steele, J., Bozick, R., Williams, M., Turner, S., Miles, J., . . . Steinberg, P. (2014). How Effective Is Correctional Education for Incarcerated Adults? In How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation (pp. 7-20). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt6wq8mt.10
Davis, L., Bozick, R., Steele, J., Saunders, J., & Miles, J. (2013). The Relationship Between Correctional Education and Employment. In Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults (pp. 41-48). RAND Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt4cgdz5.13
Gehring, T. (2000). Recidivism as a Measure of Correctional Education Program Success. Journal of Correctional Education,51(2), 197-205. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41971935
Hooley, D. (2010, March 30). 6 evidence-based practices proven to lower recidivism. Retrieved May 30, 2010, from https://www.correctionsone.com/re-entry-and-recidivism/articles/2030030-6-evidence-based-practices-proven-to-lower-recidivism/
Lewis, John. “Correctional Education: Why It Is Only ‘Promising.’” Journal of Correctional Education, vol. 57, no. 4, 2006, pp. 286–296. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23282803.
Kim Williams, Vea Papadopoulou and Natalie Booth Ministry of Justice Analytical Services. “Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278837/prisoners-childhood-family-backgrounds.pdf
Alliance for excellent education. Crime linked to Educational attainment, 2013 allaince report findings https://all4ed.org/press/crime-rates-linked-to-educational-attainment-new-alliance-report-finds/