Your Guide to Understanding the Role of the Recidivism Rate

Your Guide to Understanding the Role of the Recidivism Rate

Do you want to know how the U.S. Justice system measures success after prison?

The goal of the Justice system is to keep crime off the streets, but it shouldn't just be reactionary. Instead, an ideal Justice system puts programs in place. These programs help inmates live a successful and crime-free life. The recidivism rate is a crucial metric. It allows the system to determine whether incarceration has affected any change.

Below, we'll get into why the recidivism rate matters. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is the Recidivism Rate?

"Recidivism" refers to the possibility that a criminal will reoffend. The recidivism rate is a measurement of how many former inmates return to prison.

The goal of the Justice system is to reduce recidivism. The lower the recidivism rates, the more successful the system has been.

Some countries have been very successful at reducing recidivism. In Norway, only 20% of incarcerated people are re-arrested. Unfortunately, the U.S. recidivism rate is one of the highest in the world. 76.6% of released people are back behind bars within 5 years. 

The recidivism rate varies within certain regions of the U.S., though. South Carolina, for instance, only has a recidivism rate of 22%. Alaska has the highest recidivism rate. 66.41% of Alaskan prisoners get rearrested within 3 years. Most of those prisoners return to jail within 6 months.

What Are the Consequences of a High Recidivism Rate?

High recidivism rates are devastating for many reasons. First, it means there's an increased risk to the public. This is especially true if the released person was in prison on violent charges.

Second, recidivism is a symptom of a problem. It means the Justice system failed to fix what prompted the person to commit the crime in the first place.

Third, the more prisoners offend, the more likely they are to struggle to get jobs. Many incarcerations are also devastating to families. They can have an adverse impact on the healthy development of children.

Finally, keeping people out of prison saves taxpayer dollars. On average, it costs from $14,000-$70,000 per year to keep a person behind bars.

What Influences Recidivism?

Recidivism is a complex and dynamic problem. Many different factors go into whether a person reoffends. It's impossible to completely determine who will and who won't reoffend. 

Still, recidivism rates can indicate how well the Justice system is serving the population. So, it's important to understand what impacts recidivism rates so we can comprehend what prison programs should include.

Difficulty Getting Jobs

One of the key reasons people return to prison after being released is that American employers are hesitant to hire people with criminal records. American employers can still ask employees to list any criminal convictions they have. This makes it difficult for people to get even minimum wage jobs if they have criminal records.

Still, that doesn't mean it's impossible for formerly incarcerated people to get jobs once they're out of prison. Prisons often offer continuing education programs in which inmates can gain marketable skills or degrees. These bolster their resumes and increase the chances that employers will offer them jobs.

Some companies also hire ex-inmates to help people get back on their feet. 

Social Environment and Community

A person's social environment impacts whether they will reoffend. 

For example, if a person associates with people who commit crimes, they might commit another crime. Criminal activity is even encouraged in some circles, such as in gangs.

So, it's critical that former inmates surround themselves with the right people. Their environment should support their efforts to grow and better themselves. Family members can provide supportive environments by encouraging them to pursue career and educational opportunities while remaining firm in their stance against crime. 

Ex-inmates also benefit from attending accountability groups. A lot of crime gets fueled by alcohol and drug use. So, the right social environment, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can help people stay sober or clean and stay out of jail.

These groups may also help people feel less alone in their journey.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health problems are common in the criminal justice system. At least half of American prisoners have mental health concerns of some sort. About 10% of people behind bars have a serious mental illness.

Serious mental illness impacts someone's likelihood of reoffending. For example, kleptomania is a mental illness characterized by the compulsive urge to steal. If a person with kleptomania goes untreated, they might experience overwhelming urges to steal that land them repeatedly in prison.

Even non-serious mental illnesses have a negative impact on ex-criminals. Depression and anxiety might interfere with their lives after prison and present greater hurdles for them to overcome.

As such, ex-prisoners should seek out professional treatment. Some counselors are even trained to work with ex-inmates and have resources for this people group.

A good prison system will also have counseling services available to inmates.

Take Advantage of Re-Entry Services

If you're a current inmate about to be released, you should take advantage of re-entry services. States have organizations that connect you to the help you'll need to adjust to life after incarceration. 

These services include information on which employers hire people who have been in prison. They also give you access to Section 8 housing assistance provided you have not been convicted of a drug-related or violent crime.

Want to Learn More?

Jailtime doesn't have to mean that you or your loved one can't get back on the right track.

In fact, everyone can start working on reducing the recidivism rate. If you're not in prison, you can volunteer your time or donate resources to organizations that help ex-inmates. If you're currently an inmate, you can take advantage of prison resources to get an education, see a therapist, or get an in-prison job. 

Want more information on specific facilities or inmates? Contact us today to learn more!