Reducing crime rates and preventing people from cycling in and out of the legal system is a goal for the entire country. Unfortunately, there are millions of people booked in county jails per year in the US. In fact, the incarceration rate in the US is one of the highest in the world.
However, mass incarceration has been shown to be ineffective at reducing crime rates. High incarceration rates have been linked to more crime, as imprisonment is often traumatic to individuals and communities. Incarceration can also be detrimental to rehabilitation for life post-release, which is why recidivism rates in the US are high.
We'll discuss the recidivism rates among individuals released from county jails. We'll also explain some of the leading factors that contribute to recidivism as well as possible strategies to help reduce these rates.
What Is Recidivism?
This term describes an individual who has been released from jail or prison and commits a new offense within a three-year period. States utilize recidivism rates to better understand how to reduce the jail population, lower the crime rate, and rehabilitate inmates so they do not become habitual offenders.
The national average for recidivism rates in the US is 37.1%. However, the average recidivism rate varies widely by state. Some states, like Alaska and Delaware, have an incredibly high recidivism rate of about 60%. Other states like Oklahoma, Virginia, and South Carolina have lower rates than the national average.
The way that states measure recidivism may be slightly different, so there's varying jail information. Additionally, the type of rehabilitation programs offered and the kind of post-release support to help inmates re-enter society are all different. Since states have all different variations of inmate programs, some states have much higher recidivism rates than others.
What Are the Leading Factors That Contribute to Recidivism?
Some of the key jail information statistics of those who have reoffended show high poverty rates, lack of education, and high unemployment rates. Poverty is often the biggest determinant of whether an inmate reoffends upon release. Due to a general lack of resources and strong community support, the likelihood of reoffense is high if these issues are not addressed during and after incarceration.
However, there are other factors that play into the outcome as well. Some of these factors, like mental illness, are exacerbated by incarceration. Many people who deal with mental illnesses do not receive the kind of care they need while in jail. Incarceration, by itself, may trigger mental illnesses as it is a traumatic experience for inmates. County jails often lack the kind of resources that inmates with mental illness need. For small county jails, often in rural areas of the state, mental health resources are scarce, which means that inmates won't get the care they need.
Along with mental illness, substance misuse is also very prevalent in county jails. Those who deal with substance misuse often have higher rates of recidivism and are more likely to be habitual offenders. Most county jails don't have extensive resources that can help those struggling with substance misuse during their incarceration or post-release.
County jails are also transitional facilities, which means that a wide range of people are incarcerated there. People who have committed minor offenses or misdemeanors might be held in the same place as people who committed more serious crimes. This social dynamic could lead to negative peer association and other social issues.
For county jails to reduce the jail population and prevent future crime, the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates is an essential step. Jails must tackle large issues such as:
- Social reintegration
- Negative peer association
- Mental illness
- Negative psychological effects of imprisonment
- Substance misuse
- Lack of education
However, because county jails are not long-term facilities, most facilities don't have the resources or time to help inmates address these issues. Particularly in rural areas, there are not enough resources dedicated to preventing recidivism. Larger facilities typically will have more resources and staff members to offer programs and services that could help with rehabilitation. Additionally, prisons are often better equipped with providing inmates with the resources and programs they need for life outside of incarceration as they are long-term facilities.
What Are Possible Strategies to Decrease Recidivism Rates?
Some of the programs and services that jails and prisons might provide to inmates include education programs, vocational training, and proper mental healthcare. These opportunities aim to address some of the root causes of crime, such as poverty and a lack of available resources.
Since there are a lot of factors that influence the outcome of recidivism in county jail inmates, there are many potential solutions to help address this issue. One of the ways that county jails might decrease recidivism rates is by employing diversion programs. This is a preventative measure that gives people resources and tools to address the root causes of crime.
Keeping people–especially those who have committed non-violent, minor offenses–out of prison is helpful to reduce further crime. Incarceration in jails and prisons keeps people away from building positive support networks within their communities. It also impacts their employment prospects, which is another strong indicator of recidivism.
Another strategy for reducing recidivism rates is by offering educational and vocational training programs to inmates. Inmates without a high school diploma are more likely to re-offend after being released from incarceration. Additionally, unemployment is an issue for inmates upon release. Because of social stigma, employment prospects decrease for inmates returning to society. For those without job skills or any vocational training, finding employment to keep them and their families out of poverty is difficult.
Another strategy to reduce recidivism is to offer programs and support to inmates post-release. For many inmates returning to society means going back to their old life and the circumstances that led to their incarceration. Without resources and positive support from the community, the chances of reoffending can be high. In order to prevent people from committing new crimes, there needs to be more support for life post-release.
Recidivism is an important topic when discussing ways to reduce crime and the jail population at large. However, there are a wide variety of factors that contribute to the US's high recidivism rates. Issues such as poverty, unemployment, mental illness, and lack of positive social support, can all be detrimental to an inmate's rehabilitation prospects. In order to address recidivism rates, jails will need to offer programs and support that address the root causes of crime.
With proper support and resources, the recidivism rates are likely to decrease, which will help strengthen communities, reduce crime rates, and decrease the jail population. However, the programs and resources that county jails offer vary based on the facility. If you're looking for specific jail information, you'll need to look up individual facilities. We have jail information for every state, so you can find the facility you're looking for easily.