How affective are our prisons at lowering recidivism rates in the USA?
Ms Angelia Turner
Introduction to Criminal Justice
15 November 2012
How affective are our prisons at lowering recidivism rates in the USA? There are many functions of prisons these are: to punish offenders, to rehabilitate them and put them in a position to be modal citizens. First and foremost a prisons aim should be to prevent and deter those who enter the gates from returning. Recidivism is the term used to describe those who re-offend after coming under some sort of corrective action such as corrective action such as sentencing, fines, programs, or community service; repeat a crime within three years. However, since 1996 the recidivism rate in the United States has risen steadily and now figures show that in 2011 “70 per cent of prisoners who were released from prison were re-arrested within three years” Those who commit continuous crimes are labelled as “habitual offenders” they add to the recidivism rate when they continue to commit crimes after under-going corrective action. What’s more alarming is the high rate at which serious crimes are being repeated; “studies found that 73.8 per cent of property offenders re-offend, 66.7 per cent of drug offenders re-offend, and 62.2 per cent of public order offenders re-offend” With recidivism rates now at an all-time high t is very common for a past offender to re-enter into the court system on new and often identical charges. These statistics are forcing many questions to be asked about the ability of prisons to deter criminals “33 states that provided data for both periods, 15 reported recidivism rates had increased by as much as 30% by 2007”. The lack of former offenders reintegrating into the society begs the question “Are prisons doing enough to prepare inmates for the world they are set to return to?” The answer is proving more and more to be no, with not only recidivism rates rising. 80 per cent of all the crime committed in the United States is in fact committed by habitual offenders. So as the recidivism rate rise the proportion of habitual Offenders in relation to the total crime rate in the US simultaneously rises with it. David Greenberg along with many other Criminology experts argues that society sees Prisons as having four primary functions these are: protection; punishment; deterrence and rehabilitation. The effect of the amount of protection a prison provides has been brought into question by many critics within society. Whilst it is obvious that community is protected from prisoners whilst they are incarcerated, almost all prisoners will at some point return to society. If the mind sets of these prisoners have not been saved then the protection of society is only temporary as these prisoners will return to society ready to commit the same crimes. It is not simply enough for protection to be temporary, the aim of prisons must be to protect society indefinitely by preventing these criminals from re-offending. Another issue regarding protection is that crime and violence within prison themselves is becoming more and more of an issue. Whilst it is difficult to measure using statistics how much violence and crime takes place in prisons; reports of “violent out breaks…making evident the collapse of institutions long held dear because they were believed to have within them the means of self-renewal and social amelioration” instead these episodes have shown from prison guards and inmates that there have been more and more cases of crime in prison. Inmates should be kept safe in prison, regardless of their crimes they have been sent to serve their sentence and should not be subject to further punishment from fellow inmates or staff. In the same manor prison guards are put in place to monitor behaviour and keep order and should not be subject to attack from inmates. For these reasons it can be argued that prisons are proving to be ineffective when it comes to...
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