The Repeat Offender: Recidivism as the Biggest Problem in the Criminal Justice System

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When looking at the criminal justice system in the United States, it may be difficult to conjure up any substantive level of optimism. A problem that permeates almost every facet of society, our system of justice contains many complex and deep-seeded flaws. As a result, it is difficult to indicate a singular issue as “the biggest problem.” However, when push comes to shove, it appears that recidivism is the biggest issue in the United States criminal justice system, though there may exist the potential for strategies to successfully combat the problem.

Recidivism, or re-entry into the correctional system, is a problem that has held steady in the United States in recent decades. It is apparent that the recidivism rate has stayed fairly steady, holding around 40-45 percent within a year of release and 66-68 percent within three years of release (Henslin). Essentially, two-thirds of those who go to prison will end up back in prison within three years. These numbers contribute to America’s continuing reign as the world’s leader in per capita incarceration rates (“Entire”). With prison overcrowding being a well-publicized issue in the United States, especially against the backdrop of near-bankrupt state governments, recidivism represents a very real threat to the system as a whole. Not only does housing this immense number of prisoners cost a substantial sum of money, but the government is also largely unable to collect taxes from these inmates (Henslin), further compounding the problem.

There are many factors that contribute to recidivism in the United States. For one, public arrest records drastically detriment chances of employment once released. If those released are unable to generate necessary income, not only are they more likely to commit crimes of necessity, but they are also more likely to feel disillusioned enough with society to break its rules once again. Furthermore, as many as 70 percent of prison inmates are sexually and/or physically assaulted by...
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