Recidivism, a core criminal justice system concerni, is defined as, “the return to illegal activity after release from incarceration.”

There are a lot of hypothesis about the failure of the system of incarceration as a method to reform an individual. The incarceration has failed to address an increased rate of recidivism. I think the lack of justice towards an inmate during incarceration is the most important aspect. The article 30 of the UN Declaration of Human rights says: “No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.”

The offender (still a human) is deprived of a lot of universal basic human rights. To name a couple of human rights taken away are: Workers’ rightsii, and the loss of civil rights specially to deprive someone from voting is utterly crueliii. Our book says the crime is interwoven with social problems, such as poverty, inequality, and racism, in our wider society. I think there is a lot of truth in this statement and if it is accepted to be a true statement then these factors are enforced upon the inmates during incarceration more vigorously than anywhere else.

Take an example of inequality and poverty. An inmate is made to work at a prison and he is not paid for his work appropriately which is a violation of universal human rights as discussed above. According to the 2005 Bureau of Justice statistics about 40% of inmates had jobs within their facilities. Among the firefighters on California’s fire lines this fall, 30% to 40% were inmates. These inmates were paid $1 an hour who were working side by side with crews making about $25/houriv. An inmate is first of paid much lower than a minimum wage (sometimes 16 cents per hour) and secondly, he does not receive 80% of his wagesv. Many inmates feel undervalued and dehumanized.

If the crime is interwoven with inequality and other social problems, if these social problems incite someone to commit a crime, as the book says, then the incitement to commit a crime is the worst during incarceration of an inmate. Speaking on this subject Lynne Goodstein, a criminologist, wrote in her research: “the correctional institution…. reinforces the wrong kinds of behaviors….”

Below are a few stats about recidivism:

Number of prisoners released every year: 600,000vi i.e., around 93% of the total number of inmates imprisoned.

Recidivism rate: 60%vii i.e., around 360,000 reoffend and go back to incarceration.

Recidivism in the First year of release: 44%

Recidivism in the First six months of release: 37%

Based on the above stats it is safe to assume that the current system of incapacitation is not achieving the desired purpose of reforming inmates. Ben Crouch, a sociologist, is of an opinion that an extensive incarceration may achieve less deterrence. Similarly, in the famous Martinson report, grave doubts on the ability of prisons to reform offenders were casted. According to two criminologists, Frank Cullen and Paul Gendreau, the correctional interventions have failed to reduce recidivism about 90% of the times.

Our book talk about utilizing the services of therapists who can help offenders to identify the thinking that is causing the problematic feelings and behavior and then teach them how to replace those thoughts.

Imprisonment is a reactive (not a proactive) response to social problems of crime. A practical approach to address the problem of recidivism is mentioned in a National review article (Link below). The article says: “Researchers studying “first-day recidivism” and the amount of “gate money” provided to discharging inmates have found that reducing “liquidity constraints” on discharged prisoners (i.e. giving them more cash) helps them avoid reoffending.”

ii UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights # 23: Worker’s rights

iii UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The right to democracy.

vi Bureau of Justice Statistics 2002


Question: Perhaps the system can find an ideal community member who has successfully transitioned out of prison into society, and use them as an example because it would be something the inmates can possibly relate to.


The term “ideal community member” need to be defined.

I think any “ideal community member” from any community may not be a very successful strategy. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable working with an outsider, to whom they don’t know, they never met before and they may consider him/her to be a foreigner or an alien. The strategy requires having faith in the local community and believing that goodness cannot be monopolized by any community.

We have to keep in mind that inmates are surrounded by correctional facility officers who are supposed to have a clean criminal record if this is what you mean by an ideal community member. Despite being surrounded by these “ideal community members” 24 hours a day for several months and sometimes several years we still see a very high recidivism.

My suggestion in my post was to find a good law-abiding citizen who was bred and raised in the same environment from where the offender came. Despite being born and raised in similar circumstances as of the offender, this fellow community member of an offender remained a law-abiding citizen. We want someone with whom an offender can relate, and he/she can act on behalf of the criminal justice system as well, i.e., an arbitrator from an offender’s community.

Question: Prisoners with longer prior records were more likely to be rearrested than prisoners with shorter prior records?


I did some research and found something quite interesting.

Below is the compilation of recidivism rates and the time it takes for offenders to be rearrested. In short, it seems like recidivism is inevitable and it is just a matter of time.

The recidivism rate of 41% – 43%

Offenders with No prior recidivism: 48 months
Offenders with one past recidivism: 18 months
Offenders with 2+ past recidivism: 12 months

The recidivism rate of 27.8%

Offenders with No prior recidivism: 18 months
Offenders with 2+ past recidivism: 6 months

The recidivism rate of 32% – 34%

Offenders with No prior recidivism: 18 months
Offenders with 2+ past recidivism: 6 months

The recidivism rate of 21.6% – 21.8%

Offenders with No prior recidivism: 12 months
Offenders with one past recidivism: 6 months

The recidivism rate of 47.2% – 47.3%

Offenders with No prior recidivism: 72 months
Offenders with one past recidivism: 24 months

The recidivism rate of 55%

Offenders with one past recidivism: 36 months
Offenders with 2+ past recidivism: 24 months

Source: (Links to an external site.)


NC: You did a great post! Not only that, but I appreciate how you added to it by additionally defining an ideal community member. All of your thoughts were very well put together in your post and made great connections as well as comparisons. Thank you for sharing!

TF: Wow, excellent post! it was very informative and well said.

JK: I really enjoyed your post, I like how you organized it. It was done very well, it was very easy to read.

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