Recidivism Rates And Overcrowding In Prisons

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Abstract:

Historically, and currently there is a problem with increasing recidivism and overcrowding in prison. As a nation we need to do something with the recidivism rate that plagues our prison system creating, in some cases, extreme overcrowding. We have a problem with inmates who have been released from prison and yet somehow, they end up back in trouble with the law again, which begs the question, has the criminal justice system failed the community and the criminals who have been convicted in our criminal justice system. The U. S. Prison system is in need of an overhaul of their policies and procedures concerning the prisoners assigned to them.

Prisons today have a better system for inmates to receive treatment for drug and alcohol use, along with treatment for mental issues that those inmates might have. Having said this, the recidivism rates should be dropping due to the availability of services and number of educational opportunities that inmates have in our prisons today; however, statistics indicate they are not. With the advantageous programs for inmates while they are inside the prisons, it begs the question why are we still having problems with inmates recommitting crimes and returning to prison? Evidently, we need to have better pre – release programs where the inmate receives adequate training on life skills that will be needed for a successful transition from prison to civilian life.

History has shown us that, while we will still have problems within the correctional system in the United States, we can adapt to the changes in that system that reflect upon our society and civilization. To say the least in order to have a better society and civilization we need to educate and reform our inmates convicted of crimes and housed in our prison system. Eventually most of those inmates will be released back into the free world; we should hope that we give them a chance at a successful transition.

This writing will present problems faced, evidenced based solutions, and proposal of how funds can best be utilized. Understanding that prison is supposed to be a punishment for crimes that inmates have been convicted of, we will ask the questions of; are those inmates still in need of rehabilitation? What can criminal justice practitioners do to correct the problem of overcrowded prisons? We will explore privatized versus government run facilities as well as present literature and research development. Finally, we will offer objectives and procedures to meet the objectives.

Problem Statement:

Throughout history there has been the problem of dealing with offenders who have been convicted of their crimes. Most people who were convicted were sentenced to serve time in the bridewells of England. While the convicted felons, “convicts”, were in the bridewells they would be given jobs to work. Those jobs would ensure that the government would be able to make money off of the convict labor, this money was to supplement the government and which very little of it went back to the bridewell. In most bridewells there were trade schools that taught the convicted felons a trade, we are talking about trades like metal working, carpentry, wood working. The idea was that once the convict left the bridewell the convict could use the skills that they have learned during their stay at the bridewell to become a valuable resource in the community.

This is where one of the problems with prisons lies. What gives the inmate the incentive of staying out of the prison and becoming a productive member of society? The government who made money off of the inmates would like to keep that money coming in to their treasury, because of this the inmates were not treated as well as they should have. All of the inmates at the bridewells had to pay for their own food, and eventually had to pay their way out of the bridewell. The lack of fair treatment of the inmates and with the level of releasing inmates not up to the standards that they should be, it is hard for me to imagine how hard it would be for the inmates to want to be rehabilitated and return to society.

This is a problem that has been an issue throughout the ages from the ancient times through the modern era. In our society today we still have a problem with prison overcrowding, and how the inmates are treated while they are in our custody. The overcrowding of the prisons today is a direct factor of two different problems; tougher sentencing laws, which has made the demand of bed space in prisons a premium area of space. The second problem is the recidivism rate among the convicted felons in our society today. Some of the policies that have been put into place have changed since the bridewells of England, but they have not produced the results in reducing the prison populations.

Literature Review/ Related Research:

We need to do something with the recidivism rate that plagues our prison system. We have a problem with inmates who have been released from prison and somehow they end up back in trouble with the law again. Prisons today have a better system for inmates to receive treatment for drug and alcohol use, along with treatment for mental issues that those inmate might have. Having said this, the recidivism rates should be dropping today because of the amount of educational opportunities that inmates have in our prisons today; however, statistics indicate they are not. With the advantageous programs for inmates while they are inside the prisons, it begs the question why are we still having problems with inmates recommitting crimes and returning to prison? Evidently, we need to have better pre – release programs where the inmate receives adequate training on life skills that will be needed for a successful transition from prison to civilian life.

History has shown us that we will still have problems with the correctional system in the United States, but we can adapt to the changes in that system that reflect upon our society and civilization. To say the least in order to have a better society and civilization we need to educate and reform our inmates convicted of crimes and housed in our prison system. Eventually all of those inmates will be released back into the free world, we should hope that we give them a chance at a successful transition.

Throughout history inmates in the correctional system in the United States and England have been treated like they were nothing but mere money makers for the government. Because of this inmates have been given a hard life to live while incarcerated. I realize that prison is supposed to be a punishment for crimes that inmates have been convicted of, but are those inmates still in need of rehabilitation? What can criminal justice practitioners do to correct the problem of overcrowded prisons? Many different people have brought forth the use of private prisons. Private prison companies claim that they can reduce the prison population by building and operating their own prisons.

According to Schwartz and Nurge (2004) although prisoners were once valued for the commodities they could produce, but more likely were shunned as social junk, today many prisoners are highly valued as commodities themselves; fought over for the per diem payment that they represent. Private corporations claim to be efficient and cheap, but these claims are hard to substantiate anywhere in the world. What sets private prisons apart in the U.S. is that they are virtually unmonitored (Schwartz and Nurge, 2004).

The need to reduce the costs of incarceration to state and federal correctional agencies has allowed the movement to privatize correctional institutions to gain considerable momentum (Pratt and Maahs, 1999). Almost every prison and jail in the United States emphasizes privatization in some form (Morse, 1995). For example, many services such as educational programs, medical care, and staff training are routinely contracted out to private firms and non-profit organizations. In addition, numerous juvenile detention facilities, treatment centers, and half-way houses are run by the private sector (Morse, 1995).

According to Palumbo (1986) the second major problem, an old one, is the possible exploitation of prisoners. This is a question that has been around for more than a century. Privatization in corrections is not a new phenomenon; in the 19th century, prisoners became a source of free labor for a number of industries (Palumbo, 1986). Since 1986 there have been some changes to the way prisoners have been treated, inmates are now paid for their work that is performed.

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After looking into the recidivism rates and the overcrowded prisons, one cannot help to think that they are connected somehow. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2014) Within 5 years of release, 84.1% of inmates who were age 24 or younger at release were arrested, compared to 78.6% of inmates ages 25 to 39 and 69.2% of those age 40 or older. With information like this. it is astonishing to actually see the numbers and wonder why they are that high.

What would it take to bring those numbers back down to a normal level? Many people believe that better inmate programs would be the solution to the problems of prison overcrowding and higher recidivism rates. Within 5 years of release, 82.1% of property offenders were arrested for a new crime, compared to 76.9% of drug offenders, 73.6% of public order offenders, and 71.3% of violent offenders (BJS, 2014). Now that we see what the numbers actually say for each of the different types of offenders and the recidivism rates, it shows that property offenders had the highest rate of recidivism while the violent offenders had the lowest.

Success is dependent on how the inmates use the programs that were offered to inmates before they were released, and then combine those programs with a post release education and life skills classes, maybe those inmates would have a better chance of not becoming a re- offender. Reentry programs are designed to help offenders readjust to civilian life. According to Cei (2010) prerelease strategies help offenders successfully return to the community. Their services can include assistance with transportation, housing, employment, case management, substance abuse, and mental health treatment services, as well as reentry (Cei 2010).

After reading the case studies it would certainly seem that inmates deserve a chance to become productive members of our society. This is a need that is believed to lower the numbers of inmates in our prison system and lower the recidivism rate as well. Inmate programs is a vital part of the rehabilitation process that is the key to a successful transition from inmate to citizen.

These objectives are the source for inmate wellness programs that will lead to a development of a better inmate program system in prison. The ultimate goal of the prison system is to punish inmates for their crimes, but it also has the responsibility to the inmate to rehabilitate them so they can provide for themselves once they are released from prison.

Procedures:

This section will map out the plan for the objectives and how they will be met how the objectives will be met and accomplished. The research that was listed in this paper will be used to generate the new programs, and show how the programs will establish a new prospective on inmate recidivism. This section will also discuss the way that the programs will be organized and the goals of the different offender programs. Ultimately the program will be evaluated and will show any improvements that can be made.

This is the most important objective in the report for the main reason that you cannot fix something if you do not know where it is broken. The question has remained, why do inmates reoffend after they are released from prison? We find through the research that inmate programs both help the inmate while they are incarcerated and ultimately when they are released from prison. If this is the case then why is the prison system lacking in the area of inmate programs? Those two questions can be answered with one simple word, money. It has been proven that programs for the mental health of inmates incarcerated in prison reduces the rates of violent incidents inside of prisons. The same can be said for religious programs. The numbers show that inmates are receptive to the idea of help while they are in prison.

Having recognized the problems with the current inmate programs the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections needs to understand what the new programs can do for the department of corrections. Creating the new programs will help the Commissioner and the public understand what is going on with the inmate program system. This will also show the public that the department of corrections does care for the inmates and for their successful return into society.

The basic process for objective 2 is out with the old and in with the new. The programs and inmate services that were introduced for inmates in the 1960’s will not work for the inmates of the 21st century. Evidence shows we must get rid of, or at the very least, re-evaluate the programs that are in existence today and change them to fit the way that our prison system allows for. As the world changes so must the way that inmates are treated. We must be able to allow inmates to have access to better educational opportunities, they must also be allowed to have pro-social and religious activities.

The inmate’s mental health is a very important reason for the rehabilitation of each inmate as they serve their prison sentences. What happens to an inmate when they are released back into society and they do not have the skills and the ability to work in a trade? The answer is simple; they will reoffend and then they will re-enter the prison system again. A prison system with a good life skills and social skills classes will help the inmates with their transition back to the civilian world. With the hope that they will be able to be successful will give that inmate the chance that they are looking for when they are released from prison.

The people that would be responsible for the training of the officers and starting the program will be members of the mental health profession and the probation and parole officers. When we look at who the inmates are surrounded by we have mental health professionals and the probation and parole officers. While they are incarcerated the inmates need a set of case managers to help assist with the training that each inmate needs and when the time comes the case manager needs to bring the probation and parole officer in and continue the training for the inmate while they are in the care of the probation and parole officer.

The success of any program is determined by the feedback from the inmates and the officers who work with those inmates while they are incarcerated and after their released from prison. For the life skills and social skills classes to work, there needs to be a way to tweak the program from the beginning to the end. All inmates that are incarcerated will be given an opportunity to fill out a survey form so they can be identified as to what type of programs they need. After 6 months of the programs the inmate will be surveyed and interviewed about how they feel the program has helped them. With this information the programs can be more detailed for the individual inmate before they are released. This will help the probation and parole officers with the inmates while they are under their supervision. This is the way to effectively assess the new inmate programs that have been put into place.

Objective 5 is closely related to objective 4 in regards to the collection of feedback from inmates and their probation and parole officers. The exception with this objective there will be interviews with the inmate’s family and their employer. The final interview will occur 2 years after the release of the inmate from the prison. This is important to maintain the effectiveness of the new programs. In order to be a successful member of society there has to be a support system for any inmate released from prison. This includes the family and employers, inmates are taken away from society because of crimes that they have committed, and the primary goal of incarcerated inmate is to rehabilitate them from committing another crime and making them a productive member of society.

Summary

While all these objectives are good goals to use as an outline, there remains important legal aspects that are new and upcoming in the passing of HR-5682, First Step Act to support the reduction of recidivism. The bill is intended to create a risk and needs assessment in federal prisons to guide the implementation of incentivized recidivism-reduction programming for prisoners. “More broadly, the legislation is focused on reducing recidivism by aiding reentry into society in multiple ways and implements other measures that contribute to this goal outside of the new programming provisions “(115th Congress H.B. 5682). At present there is not enough empirical data to indicate whether there is a positive, negative, or neutral impact on current recidivism rates.

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