Merriam- Webster Dictionary defines recidivism as a “tendency to relapse into a previous condition or behavior: especially criminal behavior.”2 Recidivism is a huge concern in the United States. Of the 272,111 persons released from prisons in 15 States in 1994, an estimated 67.5 percent were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years, 46.9 percent were reconvicted, and 25.4 percent were resentenced to prison for a new crime.3
Recidivism is a very serious issue. It is serious for various reasons. Recidivists are a danger to the different communities to which they return. By its’ definition, recidivism breeds crime. Recidivism is defined as the commission or conviction of a criminal act after being incarcerated previously. The fact that more crime is being committed means that there are more people being injured (either physically or financially). Recidivism needs to be reduced because it is not only dangerous it is very expensive. It cost approximately 45 dollars a day to house and feed each inmate housed in a correctional facility.4
Studies have shown that many felons recidivate because they were not able to become a functioning member of society. “The Felon” felt as if society did not want him any longer so he may as well continue in a life of crime. “Faced with a denial of rights, convicted felons are likely to have a lack of respect for the law; the commission of future crimes is not deemed a violation of the social compact because the contract no longer exists. By keeping ex-felons on the margins of society, many will become repeat offenders.”5
Almost two-thirds of those who recidivated did so within the first year upon release.6 Within the first six months of their release 29.9 percent were re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor.7 Within the first year the rate of recidivism grew to 44.1 percent and two years after release the total grew to 59.2 percent.8 These statistics prove that if the state wanted to ensure that a released offender did not continue in their life of crime that the first year after release is the most crucial.
Incarceration has adverse effects on the pecuniary capacity of ex-offenders. Due to this fact many ex-offenders never reach their full potential upon release and return to a life of crime. “A job not only provides financial support at a time when it is most needed, but also it helps the ex-offender to acquire friends and gain a sense of self- respect.”9 If more ex- convicts were able to become gainfully employed upon release recidivism rates would greatly decrease. “Factors such as… gaining employment… and have been linked to a reduction in recidivism.” “Increased employment would benefit society in at least three ways. … Furthermore, increased employment would reduce crime-related social cost.
Educational differences between ex-offenders and non offenders have far reaching effects on the ability for felons to successfully reintegrate into society. Many ex-offenders are the products of an educational system that provide subpar educations to its students. With that being the case many offenders go into prison with less than a high school diploma or its equivalent. When “The Felon” is released from prison, years later, he still lacks the educational capacity to be a productive member of society. Employment opportunities are directly intertwined with how educated a person is.
Statistics should show criminal justice policy makers that the best way to reduce crime and recidivism is to thoroughly educate offenders. As the statistics show, if an offender is college educated he or she is far less likely than one who has less than a high school diploma to commit more crime. Education is not the only answer to the question of why convicted felons commit crimes again, but can be a starting point in reducing the crime rate in the United States.
Being in prison has a huge impact on an offender’s mental health. Dealing with depression, substance abuse and a host of other issues and thrown back into the very environment that caused the break.
Productive Citizens was created to address the very issues that affect the offender as they attempt their re-entry into society. Without programs like Productive Citizens ex- felon don’t have a chance at making something of themselves. Putting them back into their same environments with their same friends and the same problem expecting the results to be different.
1Dusty Collier, “The Ideal Pendulum Swing: From Rhetoric to Reality”, 13 BerkJCL 175 (2008) citing Karl Menninger, The Crime of Punishment 9 (Viking Press 1968).
2Merriam Webster Online, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recidivism (last visited September 23, 2009).
3Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Offenders Statistics, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm#recidivism (lasted visited September 23, 2009).
4This is state by state break down. Because we are in Missouri, I chose to research its neighboring states. Missouri- In 2009 it cost 261,585,454 dollars per year to house and feed inmates and operate the various facilities in Missouri. FY09Budget,http://www.doc.mo.gov/pdf/AR2008.pdf (last visited November 12, 2009). Kansas- It cost 212,909,068 per year to house and feed and operate the various facilities in Kansas. Kansas Department of Corrections 2009 Annual report, http://www.doc.ks.gov/publications/2009%20Annual%20Report%20KDOC.pdf/ (Last visited November 12, 2009). Iowa- Iowa only reported the amount that it spends per day. Iowa spends about 85.02 dollars a day on running the facility and housing and feeding the inmates located there. This data was from 2008. They have not posted its statistics for 2009 2008 Annual Report, http://www.doc.state.ia.us/Documents/2008AnnualReport.pdf (Last visited on November 12, 2009). Arkansas- Arkansas report is also from the year 2008. It reported spending an approximate 57.13 dollars a day and 20,852.45 a year housing, clothing, feeding inmates and maintaining the facility.2008 Annual report, http://www.adc.arkansas.gov/pdf/reports/2008_annual_report.pdf (last visited on November 12, 2009). Illinois- Illinois reports spending about 1,949 dollars a month on taking a care of an inmate housed in one of their correctional facilities. This number is from 2008. Illinois as not reported any data for 2009. Financial Impact Statement,http://www.idoc.state.il.us/subsections/reports/financial_impact_statements/Financial%20Impact%20Statement-FY2008.0001.pdf (last visited November 13,2009).
Website discusses the amount the United States is spending to house people who are convicted for the various marijuana related offenses. Pot Prisoners Cost Americans $1 Billion a Year http://www.nowpublic.com/pot_prisoners_cost_americans_1_billion_a_year (last visited November 12, 2009).
5S David Mitchell, 34 Fordham Urb. L.J. 833, Undermining Individual and Collective Citizenship: The Impact of Exclusion Laws On the African American Community (2007).
9Nicholas G. Miller, Insurance For Ex-Offender Employees: A Proposal.
10Peter Ayton, Mandeep K. Dhami, George Loewenstein, David Mandel, Prisoners’ Positive Illusions of Their Post Release Success, 30 LHUMB 631(2006).