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Among numerous problems and challenges of the penal system, there are such problems that definitely have systemic nature and are of fundamental importance. It is general knowledge that the objectives of the criminal and corrections system are not only to punish the offender but also to prevent him from falling into a pattern and placing society under the threat of further crimes. According to the data released by the Pew Center on the States, one in 100 American grown-up men at least once in his life was arrested. The U.S. trend towards the growing level of incarceration is the highest in comparison to other countries (Fact Sheet: Trends in Corrections, 2015).
Moreover, the sky-rocketing growth of the prison population mostly contributed to by recently released offenders imposes the burden on the whole society. It is not only the issue of security but a problem touching upon financial matters which tend to be ever-growing nowadays. State spending on correction by far exceeds the expenditures on education, which reached US$ 51.9 billion for 2013 in compliance with the information provided by the National Association of State Budget Officers ("Society Must Address Recidivism, Officials Say", 2009). All the above-mentioned facts indicate grave fallacies of the contemporary penal and corrections system.
Social consequences of a high level and incarceration are even more drastic. Once released people fall victim to long-term isolation from the community, the effects of this phenomenon turned out to be terrible. It is problematic to count the former prisoners who became homeless and those who suffer from serious health problems in prison, addicted to drugs or alcohol. The period after release from prison is unbearable both for the prisoner and his surrounding.
The man released to freedom without training and social support may again fall into harmful, sometimes even inmates, environment or, on the contrary, it may not be complete isolation, whereas they need help to re-adjust to life. There are governmental programs inclined to decrease the number of crime returns, thus, this issue requires further study.
To find a relevant solution, it is necessary to analyze all the ins and outs of this highly disputable issue. To achieve that, it is expedient to define the problems related to the applied policy of after-prison rehabilitation, evaluating its weak and strong points. Subsequently, potential approaches to enhancing the effectiveness of the current policies may be drafted.
Identification of the Crime Problem
The idea that the corrections system fails to serve its main purpose keeps circulating in the press and dominates public opinion. There are indeed convincing arguments that prove this fact. Recidivism has substantially grown over the past eight years. It takes less than three years for 75% of newly released prisoners to come back to prison (Heroux, 2016). Apart from that, one needs to bear in mind that the number is not completely accurate since there are numerous cases when the repeated crimes were not even identified. Overall, this tendency undermines the whole idea of corrections and their efficacy.
People are falling out of the system and are unable to come back Even a sincere attempt of a person to put matters straight and never to turn to crime again face the realities of life which compel the man to return to his previous lifestyle. The most important factors are the perception of the community, lack of education and professional qualifications as well as the previous experience of alcohol and drug abuse. Furthermore, one-fifth of prisoners are suffering from serious mental illnesses and personal hurdles such as the reluctance of the criminal's previous circle of contacts ever to know him/her. Undoubtedly, rebuilding one's good name and status is a demanding and rather stressful psychological process ("Society Must Address Recidivism, Officials Say", 2009).
The increased risk of crimes committed by repeat offenders is because that they are committed mainly in groups, with extreme insolence and cruelty, causing great physical, psychological, and material damage. The above-mentioned cruelty and uppermost dangerousness stem from the previous criminal experience and aggravation of the moral and psychological problems the offender had before the incarceration. What is more, although it may seem cynical, for corrections, the system places criminals among other felons, which can hardly be characterized as a kind of curative media.
On the whole, it is possible to introduce a division of the circumstances leading to repeated relapse, with the so-called objective and subjective factors forming the person's propensity to the second offense. Among these items, it is essential to mention particular drives and features of the social environment that led to the commission of the initial offense. As a rule, the second crime follows the first one because the offenders are brought back into a social sphere that practically does not give them any chance to break the vicious circle of the criminal environment.
Such external factors as the influence of the circumstances which caused the unacceptable behavior in the first place and social relations result in the development of the traits of a high-risk person and tolerating the type of behavior that may be considered inappropriate in the community. Once released, a person tends to restore the only relations he/she had before imprisonment. This boils down to the next factor which is subjective and is mainly formed by the stigmas and stereotypes as the external barriers on the way to effective rehabilitation.
Current Literature Relevant to the Criminal Justice Process Issue
Scholars and practitioners have long emphasized the increased social danger of recidivism, which is because the crimes committed by a person, who has been previously incarcerated because of his criminal acts (for two and more times), is an abundant sign that shows the person's persistent desire to continue his criminal activity, disregarding any moral or ethical standards and his imperturbable reluctance to lead a socially acceptable way of life. The works of these authors study certain aspects of the analyzed topic as well as patterns and public relations surrounding this area.
The proposed methods of resolving the horrid numbers of crimes encountered nowadays make it necessary to take into consideration the multiple interconnections existing between the approaches to recidivism in criminology, criminal and criminal-executive law, and the theory and practice of the prevention of recidivism.
Pundits frequently address the relation between the level of recidivism and education and employment of the individuals. It is possible to refer to the study conducted by Bernburg and
Krohn (2003), who proved that those who found a job in their youth proved to be less inclined to criminal activities. Equally, these findings apply to the recidivism cases, when people who were able to find a job showed a higher level of social integration. In the article Do harsher prison conditions reduce recidivism?... the connection between the penitentiary regime and its potential outcomes for the future of the inmate was scrutinized. Overall, despite widely spread beliefs, harsh sentences and prison conditions have the opposite effect on the inmate and foster a person's tendency to criminal behavior in the future (Chen, Shapiro, 2007).
The work Assembling Recidivism: The Promise And Contingencies of Post-Release Life gives an in-depth analysis of the inside life of the inmate, with the author putting the reader in the offender's shoes and giving the insight perspective of his/her life. The general idea here is not simply to call for the compassion and sympathy of the reader, but rather to outline the most urgent problems which are difficult to be realized behind the bars. By exploring the life of a person in pre- and post-release dimensions the author highlights that the government's expectations are not conducive to the way the society functions (Halsey, 2007).
Many offenders are not able to make two ends meet, not to mention supporting their families and children. Nevertheless, on being released they are often expected to maintain a mode of life as if he/she had never gone to prison. The most striking idea of the work is that it is pointless to pretend that nothing is happening in this sphere at least from the administrative point of view. This puts the offender in an uncomfortable position which leads to the feeling of oppression. Thus, the key objectives of the society must be an attempt to create a system where a person will be able gradually to join the community.
In their study Prison-based substance abuse treatment, residential aftercare, and recidivism, Hiller, Knight, and Simpson analyze the urge for the interrelation and integrity of the corrective action when in prison and outside it. The article views the proper services and measures taken, which should be inextricably connected with the exposure to a therapeutic community before facing the previous habitat. In effect, those services should not cease once the inmates are released since the fiercest necessity for outside assistance emerges at that particular stage of corrective measures (Hiller, Knight, Simpson, 1999).
A recent work completed in 2016 named Poverty, State Capital, And Recidivism Among Women Offenders focuses on the experiment performed on female prisoners and the influence the government's assistance may have. The study shows that those women, who received assistance from the government after their release demonstrated insignificantly or even no re-offenses once they received this assistance (money stipends were given, housing assistance, etc.).In addition, the study provides relevant data on a similar approach towards men (Holtfreter, K., Reisig, M. D., & Morash, M., 2004).
The Existing Policy
It is often claimed that the only institution that can indeed contribute to the socialization of the prisoner is his family. However, it often happens that there is no family. Therefore, the family cannot always help someone who has been released recently. Other rehabilitation institutions are the state and non-governmental organizations assisting. They lend support, such as education, obtaining professional skills, further placement in the labor market, and the development of creative skills, to prisoners serving their sentence.
Potential Approaches and Their Strengths
The first proposed measure includes, despite possible criticism of the taxpayers, offering financial and practical aid for the criminals. The successful scheme includes rehabilitation centers based on employment and development centers with obligatory attendance for a certain time period after the release. The objective of the proposed policy is to reduce the crime rate through additional funding and assistance that will help the offender succeed once the individual returns to society.
This tendency is revealed in the analyses of the employment programs for offenders by Wilson in 2000 and Aos et al., in 2006. The scientists corroborated the definite positive impact of the specific employment programs, specifically developed to serve the needs of the people released from prison. Apart from that, this study recognized the potency of the in-prison career education programs. Nevertheless, not all existing programs were found useful. The approaches should also include Housing Assistance, especially for those offenders who do not have support through family or face other financial needs.
Undoubtedly, the corrections process is primarily psychological, and it would be rather illogical to exclude pre- and post-release counseling. There is a strong need to identify the root of the crime, making the criminal realize the reasons and the scope of his/her actions. Moreover, doing time in prison seems to deteriorate the state of affairs, and the atmosphere of incarceration may make people even more violent and cruel.
In Heidi Rummel's opinion, a way to combat the destructive outcomes of penitentiary isolation lies in the government's facilitation and non-interference in the inmates' keeping relations with their families, which is to be accomplished by simplifying the procedural requirements for such meetings. This has both direct and indirect implications. On the one hand, the imprisoned person will not fall out of society totally, and it will make it more challenging for him/her to get back on his/her feet afterward. On the other hand, by realizing the part of life they have lost, people would have the incentive to set their priorities right.
Another possible solution is to classify the information on the previously conducted crimes once a sentence is served, especially for less severe crimes, so that potential employers would not be discouraged to hire such people due to existing stereotypes.
Since one of the essential problems is enshrined in the community, one of the ways to diminish the scope of inmate recidivism is to involve members of society in the rehabilitation process. It is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it has a strong psychological effect as it presents public acceptance of the criminal, the problem which is among the dominant ones causing further turning to crime (Community Participation in Prisons a Civil Society Perspective).
This involvement is to be introduced at every stage of the corrections process. For one thing, NGOs working with prisoners during sentences organize educational programs, lectures, master classes, workshops, theatrical and artistic circles. For example, there are NGOs, which are establishing communication between prisons and nearby institutions: students get the opportunity to go to the prison to conduct lectures there. Arrested for scribbling graffiti learn to draw graffiti on canvas, as well as learn where it is best to organize the first exhibition of graffiti works. The practice proves that even such an insignificant effort matters.
Finally, when a prisoner is released, he/she will not come out in a hostile environment, but face people who can see him/her not as a former criminal but as a person. After the release, the role of such NGOs is not strictly material. They are working with the recently released detainees by helping to find a roof over their head, finding a job, or some other help if necessary including learning a language.
Potential Limitations of the Policies
With the view of the specific medium of the above-mentioned approaches, it is necessary to assess potential limitations. The possible fallacies of the proposed solutions may be the following. Firstly, it is impossible to control the expenditures and to ensure that the financial aid is not spent to prepare for further crimes. As it was indicated, many inmates suffer from various ailments, including alcohol and drug addictions.
Similarly, the housing may be used as the place where the organization of future crimes may take place. The main drawback of placing criminals in the environment outside prison is the security issue. It may have no tangible corrective effect, and in most severe cases, it may even lead to the commitment of new crimes.
Both community and counseling may prove ineffective for those individuals, who manifest strongly antisocial behavior and have deep psychological disorders preventing them from entering the community. There are numerous examples of the severe denial of practices aimed at psychological therapy. Though all of the above-mentioned suggestions might clash with reality, they are still worth pursuing since even the life of a single man is a fair price for these endeavors. The equally objective dangerousness of the given tactics may prevent social support and lead to casualties. It often happens that psycho-education classes fail to grant stable result as the inmates are allowed to opt out of participation.
The optimal number of participants in the rehabilitation program, which is viewed as extremely expensive, should not exceed seven people for security reasons. Community participation is unacceptable where professional involvement is required. The general disadvantage of all of the approaches mentioned is the lack of evaluation, which would facilitate further inquiry into the subject (Miceli, 2016).
To conclude, recidivism should not be perceived as a problem that comes out solely from the personal inclinations of a person, but as a systemic social issue. It concerns everyone since the ever-growing number of inmate recidivists shakes the basis of the security and overall poses the question of the effectiveness of the present-day corrections system, which fails to cope with one of its functions. There is an extensive study on this account, which indicates that the conditions inside a prison, the perspectives outside it, and the social medium are defining in the question whether a person will return to crime after serving his/her sentence.
The core suggestions on this account cover monetary assistance, counseling, and proper social integration that includes activities pursued during and after the prison sentence. Housing facilities and employment were mentioned among those factors which have a tremendous effect on the possibility of recidivism since the latter is frequently driven by the inability of an individual to satisfy his/her basic needs.