Criminals and Society: The Battle Between Reintegration and Recidivism
This research paper is focused on released convicts and the struggles they face to become active, progressive members of society. Sadly, these released offenders regularly face discrimination in their job searches, in attempts to secure housing for themselves and their families, and to be accepted by their communities. Without the right support structures in place upon their release, these former prisoners may very well fall back into lives of crime. Without a suitable place to stay, these released offenders may become recidivists, falling back into their familiar roles as law breakers, if only to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families. Statistically, more than one third of released offenders end up back in jail within a year of their initial release. Through this study, I hoped to shed light on some of the main causes of criminal recidivism using Labeling Theory and Social Learning Theory.
More than 600,000 prisoners are released into the main population of the United States every year. Of that 600,000, 30 percent end up back behind bars within six months of their release, and 70 percent end up returning to jail within three years (Reisig, 409). Upon release, many criminals find that life on the outside is harder on them than it was when they were convicted, sentenced, and locked away. People who know them may become just as prejudiced as the interviewers and landlords who deny them the chance to earn a living or a place to stay. Through the continued use of labels like criminal, thug, crook, and felon, many released offenders feel ostracized and isolated. Their friends and families may turn their backs on them, taking away the few things they have left to hold onto and work for. In these cases, returning to a life of crime may not only seem like their sole option, but also the most logical one to make. In a world where everyone is seemingly out to get them or keep them from achieving their goals, those criminals who they surrounded themselves with before going to jail can be the only group to offer acceptance, having gone through the same things. This all can lead to recidivism, which is a major problem in a country where crime is falling, but where the prison population has been rising exponentially since the early 1970’s (Reisig, 409). This is a problem that, if not properly addressed in the near future, could become create a whole subculture of citizens with criminal records, a lower moral standard and value set than the majority of America, and a general disdain for the US justice system and its representatives. Also, with the justice system prioritizing incarceration as punishment, there is a lack of focus on actual rehabilitation for criminals in jail and those who are set to be released. This adds to the problem, as the numbers of formerly incarcerated citizens rises, but the number of actual rehabilitated persons decreases. Even in the face of community programs aimed at aiding released offenders with their bids at reintegration, job training programs within the jails themselves, and boot camp release programs, there are often significant roadblocks to successful reintegration. Along with a general feeling of disapproval from the people within their social circles, reporting to or being visited at home or work by parole officers, repeated court visits and added restrictions can be the straws to break the proverbial camel’s back. This study is geared towards helping the out-patient end of the criminal justice system and the municipal and volunteer groups that work with released offenders in identifying the sources of discrimination they face. If light can be shed on the causes of discrimination and the stereotypes inherent, it will be easier to combat these issues from the rehabilitation end. The research and survey can help to determine if the general public...
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