Recidivism and corrections

This is not the first time that Carl will serve a prison sentence. He has been arrested for the second time for the crime of robbery with violence. Two years ago, he was released from prison due to the same crime, after serving a seventeen years sentence. Carls parents are in shock wondering why their son repeated the same crime. One would think that the term he had served in prison would rehabilitate him into a better person once his term ends. Carl is not alone, as there are many other ex-prisoners who are convicted of the same crimes they had committed previously. This kind of behavior, where persons are re-arrested because of repeating the same crime or behavior is known as recidivism. This essay will discuss recidivism in relation to jail and community based sanctions based on the Oregon corrections department research. 

What is recidivism
Recidivism is derived from the Latin word recidvus which means recurring. It is a situation where a person repeats a behavior considered undesirable as a result of experiencing negative consequences of that particular behavior. In other terms, it is referred to the percentage of former prisoners who are arrested (Henslin, 2008). It is also defined as the situation whereby Offenders reoffend after they return to the community (Song  Lieb, 1993).

Recidivism is commonly used in relation to criminal acts and abuse of substances. When scientific literature states something like recidivism of sexual offenders, it means the occurrence in which the criminals are seized performing more sexual crimes after release from prison (Levenson  Morin, 2000).

There exists a grand relationship between psychopathy and criminal recidivism. Psychopathy is defined as the inability of a person to learn from mistakes performed before. The people who have this kind of disorder are satisfied every time they perform the antisocial behavior. In addition, lack of remorse for their actions helps them to gain satisfaction (Hare, 1995). For any type of re-offending to be counted as recidivism, a lot of voluntary disclosure, arrest or conviction is required. Therefore, the real recidivism rate often differs from the actual reported rates (Hare, 1995).

        Recidivism rates the Oregon review
 A research was conducted by the Oregon Department of corrections in the year 2001 in Oregon, America. The research involved all offenders between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2001 who were receiving their first sanction. This was as a result of parole and felony probation violation. The next twelve months that followed involved following the offenders after the first sanction so as to establish whether there was any recidivism. The study involved over ten thousand offenders, and the results were gotten and brought into book (Martin, 2003).

Types of recidivism
 The Oregon research was based on the types of recidivism. The first type was that based on reconviction rates, which depended on the felony crime conviction within the study year. This indicator was used to measure criminal behavior involvement which led to conviction. When offenders who had committed similar crimes were grouped together, the rate of reconviction was seen to be higher in a jail sanction compared to community alternative sanctions (Martin, 2003).

 The next type of recidivism was based on violating supervision conditions. This indicator was used to measure the offenders compliance with the supervision conditions. The results indicated that longer jail periods and shorter ones have the same result as far as recidivism is concerned. There was no clear indication of future compliance when jail or community sanctions were used (Martin, 2003).

 Thirdly, re-arrest was the other type of recidivism used. It based its study on the arrests that year and found out that community sanctions were effective in reducing re-arrest and that longer prison terms did not reduce recidivism more than shorter ones (Martin, 2003).

  The results of the research showed that the jail sanctions had a higher rate of recidivism than the community sanctions. This is regardless of whether the offender had a long or a short term incarceration period. According to the research, the community based sanctions was the best compared to the incarceration type of punishment (Martin, 2002).

Reasons for recidivism
Generally, several circumstances lead to recidivism occurrence.  An individual may have experienced circumstances which contributed to his incarceration. The individuals may be affected by occurrences which happened during their stay in the prison cells. Also, they can be affected by either the long term or short term period they are released from prison (Visher, 2003).   

Once an individual is released from jail, it becomes difficult for him or her to adjust to life outside prison. This is because a lot of readjustments need to be made by the ex- prisoner in the outside world. They have to reunite back with their families and go back to places which are full of risks so as to seek a formal identification. This is because once they are out of prison, they have an unpleasing work history and they have to deal with their criminal record.

Many of the prisoners come out of prison with a very positive outlook towards life only to get disappointed by the turn of events outside prison. This results to the ex-prisoner looking for ways of justification, and he or she ends up going back to his or her undesirable behavior (Visher, 2003).

                Effects of recidivism
 A study conducted in the United States showed that recidivism is associated with several problems. One reason is because billions of dollars have been used for the upkeep of the offenders, only to have those individuals re-offend after their release. Furthermore, there is a great risk posed to the general public which includes fear and a negative perception towards the correctional systems because of the high recidivism rates that occur among violent offenders. The perception of most Americans and other people elsewhere is that there exists much inefficiency in the incarceration process as it results to high recidivism rates (Martin, 2003).

Choice of sanction in reducing recidivism
In choosing the sanction to be used for punishment, the role of a professional judgment is important. Several of the differences that are associated with the type of sanction chosen are as a result of the professional judgment on the type of sanctions to be used and those which should be avoided. Some jurisdictions employ several sanctions, while others do not. Actually, some smaller countries lack alternatives to the jail sanction. A countrys choice on a particular sanction can depend more on the resources that it has than the choice it has in choosing the type of sanction. Generally, based on the facts gotten from Oregon, community based sanctions are effective in reducing incarceration, and are a good investment to the safety of the public (Martin, 2003).

Recidivism and Incarceration
  Discussing the effect of jail sentences in relation to recidivism is a crucial issue especially to those who are concerned with the safety of the public and cutting the cost-effectiveness of incarcerating the convicted offenders. There exist different opinions between those who advocate for long sentences and those who prefer short sentences in relation to recidivism rates (Song  Lieb, 1993).

Comparison of the longer and shorter prison sentences
 It is argued that longer incarceration periods reduce crimes rates as the offender will be incapacitated. This means that the offender, after the incarceration period will never re-offend the public. Theories that support longer sentences show that punishment causes guilt, fear and an emotional effect which makes the individual to avoid any kind of offence (Martin, 2003).
 Secondly, the released offenders would be discouraged from committing more crimes as a result of longer periods of incarceration. This situation was referred to as specific deterrence. This is because the offenders would fear that age would catch up with them and thus they would need to readjust their lives (Martin, 2003).

  Thirdly, general deterrence is the situation where potential offenders are discouraged from committing crimes due to the awareness of penalties. A longer sentence would also compel the offenders to avoid a new offense as they would realize that it would cost them all the benefits associated with freedom and their earnings (Song  Lieb, 1993).

  Those who advocated for shorter sentences discuss that the duration of punishment is not as important as its certainty in discouraging the offenders from reoffending. Secondly, several offenders commit crimes as a result of physical addictions. They require training on their occupation and to be given treatment programs. However, they do not get this as they are subjected to incarceration. Lastly, prison is considered as a school which makes criminals more sophisticated and entrenched (SongLieb 1993).

Effects of incarceration in relation to recidivism
Positive effects
  A review by Cusson and Pinsonneault suggests that incarceration has positive effects on the offender in relation to reducing the recidivism rates. It shows that imprisonment wears down the drive for criminal acts .This is because it makes the criminal fear punishment and the effect of previous convictions. Also, the offender will be afraid of the difficulties associated with coping with the punishment for a new crime. According to them, the offenders usually have social, psychological and physical problems which can be diagnosed during their stay in prison. If they are treated, it would be unlikely for the offenders to commit the same crime (Song  Lieb 1993).

Negative effects 
Clemmer argues that during the period of imprisonment, the inmates learn antisocial behaviors from the other prisoners. Therefore, the longer the period of imprisonment, the higher the chance of the offender to learn evil habits in prison, thus the greater the likelihood of re-offending. Based on a study conducted by Orsagh and Chen, when a person is removed from the society, his or her social bonds are weakened as a result of the jail term. This results into the offender having an increased propensity to reoffend after release (Song  Lieb 1993).  

Recidivism and community based sanctions
 Community based corrections have been perceived as a legitimate option than incarceration in local jails or state prisons. Community based sanctions are preferred, not because of their advantages to incarceration but because they are less expensive. A lot of pressure is imposed to community based sanctions to ensure that there is reduced recidivism. This pressure results to the community sanction not being fully effective in reducing the recidivism rates. However, community based sanctions are considered to be more effective than jail sanctions as far as reduction of recidivism is concerned (Martin, 2003).

How community based sanctions are effective than the jail term
 The Oregon Department of corrections showed a review of how effective community based sanctions are in reducing recidivism rates. Some of the community based sanctions include community service and work crews, day reporting centers, electronic monitoring and house arrest. The department reviewed the effectiveness of the community based sanctions and how well they reduced recidivism and protected the public. It sought to review the effects of the community sanctions compared to jail sanctions in Oregon (Martin, 2003).

According to the research conducted, treatment and rehabilitation will have better results than surveillance and enforcement. Therefore, community based sanctions accompanied with appropriate treatment are more effective in reducing recidivism than the jail sanctions. Even if the community based sanctions are not accompanied by treatment, they still produce better results than the jail sanctions as far as the reduction of recidivism is concerned (Martin,2003).

So as to reduce recidivism, rehabilitation and treatment is viewed to be more effective than surveillance and enforcement. Better results are seen once treatment is used with the community based sanctions, as the recidivism rate reduces with ten percent. Alternative sanctions are always good compared to jail terms as they are less expensive in their delivery. Both brief and long periods of imprisonment have the same effect in relation to recidivism in that they increase the rates of recidivism. The electronic home detention has a great value in that it reduces costs and treatment services can easily be administered (Martin, 2003).

Who is to blame, the offenders or the governing systems
 An assumption is made with an argument that a correction needs to be made to the individual offender. Others argue that the criminogenic environment is caused by the existing social and political systems. When argued this way, crime increase is seen as a measure of the societys failure and not only the offense of the individual.

Recidivism is therefore viewed as an indicator of inefficiencies in the society and not only the defects of the individual offender. When it is assumed that an offender needs correcting, it may be incorrect in some instances. Some criminal activities in a number of offenders are caused by correctable defects, which include illiteracy, family problems and lack of skills for employment. Others are caused by curiosity and peer pressure (Maltz, 1984).

In conclusion, the political and social systems in any society should contribute to reducing the recidivism rates. This is highly dependent on the professional judgment that a certain state decides to employ so as to come up with the type of sanction to be used in punishing offenders in any country. Very accurate steps should be taken to rehabilitate the offenders once they have been released from the correctional facilities so as to reduce the risk of recidivism. The ex-offenders should be encouraged to join groups which will help them to readjust to the society. All in all, the best sanctions to be used by any country are the community based sanctions as it has been proved by research.


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