Daniel (not his real name) is a 25-year-old drug dealer who served time and has been released to go back to the community. He stated that he has reformed and the process inside the prison has brought him to realization that he wants his normal and peaceful life back. But the problem now is, he’s having some doubts if he will ever function and regain his normal life back.
What is recidivism?
When offenders get released from prison, some of them are not successful in the reformation process and regaining their normal lives. They tend to go back to their usual illegal and criminal acts, gets arrested again, and eventually be reconvicted and returned to prison. This is called recidivism.
Not all prisoners go back to their families and communities joyful and with positive outlook. The Bureau of Justice Statistics have reported that after three years of release, about two-thirds or 67.8% of these released prisoners gets rearrested and go back to prison. Reasons identified to the relapse of criminal behavior can be attributed not only to one single cause or factor. Experts have identified several factors that can cause the prisoners to return to criminal life:
- Lack of socialization. This could be from the notion that persons coming out from prisons have little or no friends aside from their acquaintances that are also related to criminal behavior. Therefore, they would initiate contact to their previous friends and will influence them again to commit illegal acts leading to recidivism.
- Lack of job training. Prisoners sometimes don’t get the chance to undergo job skills training after they are released from prison. This can lead to returning to their usual activities that they are more comfortable with and much of these activities entail illegal acts of attaining financial resources.
- Lack of employment opportunity or inability to obtain employment. This can be due to the stigma that these persons have been convicted due to a crime committed and has served time as penalty. Employers are sometimes afraid that these persons have high tendency of committing a crime again. As such, they would not get considered for the job.
- Inability to reintegrate into society after returning from prison. The success of the person to go back to their communities can be assessed on how well he/she interacts and behave appropriately. This can be seen if he has obtained a job, increase social connections, and ability to interact with the rest of the community. For most of the returnees, this aspect is very difficult to achieve.
- Antisocial attitudes. On a personal level, prisoners tend to possess innate antisocial attitude that despite of the reformation process in the prison, they will always negate with the norms of society and will continue to act irresponsibly.
- Restlessness and impulsiveness. Being impatient and lacking the ability to control and critically think what will be the consequence of their actions will bring.
- Association with other criminals. Apparently, some prisoners will have a hard time to dissociate themselves from their previous gangs or groups. The moment they know that the prisoner has gotten out, they can trace him and will bring him back to criminal life.
- Lack of education. Statistically, prisoners are under-educated community compared to the general population. Despite of the ongoing education they can receive while serving time, some have lower reading levels for their ages, lack writing and math skills. With the lacking knowledge and skills to help them find a job, they would go back to the easiest way that they can think of, and that’s committing criminal acts.
- Lack of support. This factor can mean lack of family support, true and good friends, and community resources to help the offender regain his normal life.
- Substance abuse. Continuation of the offender to use illicit drugs and even alcohol intoxication can lead him back to doing illegal behaviors.
- Neglect or abuse of parents or guardians. In the case of juvenile delinquents, the absence of a responsible parent or guardian is a major factor to lead them to negative peers and bad influence to commit criminal acts.
So, is there hope?
Even though there is still an ongoing stigma on prisoners going back to their communities, Daniel is hopeful that in due time and process, he will be able to live a normal and peaceful life. There are several strategies that can help him in attaining this goal:
- Continuing education. The purpose of imprisonment is not only to penalize the person for the crime that he committed, but to help in the reformation of behavior, attitude and outlook in life. There are prison education programs and vocational training programs that will help prepare the prisoners gain skills and knowledge to help them in their job seeking and eventually obtaining a job.
- Professional help to undergo therapy and counselling. Psychologists believe that cognitive-behavioral therapy can help in rewiring the brain, thereby changing how the person think and behave appropriately.
- Ongoing support. Family, social and community support are crucial on the system of recovery of the prisoner. An effective parole and probation system is the best answer to achieve this.