Social Issues / Recidivism


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Autor:  anton  10 March 2011
Tags:  Recidivism
Words: 1739   |   Pages: 7
Views: 821


As a result of tough on crime policies and the subsequent war on drugs, the number of individuals involved with criminal justice system continues to rise at alarming rates. Since 1980, the incarceration rate has tripled. 1 in 20 Americans will spend time in prison during their lifespan. The numbers speaks for themselves. Currently there are an estimated 2 million people in U.S. federal and state prisons. Given the unprecedented rise of individuals now involved with the American criminal justice system and the soaring rates or recidivism, there is a great need for systemic changes to address the issues confronting the ex-offender populations in this country.
















Recidivism is the term used to describe ex-offenders who return to prison as a result of continued criminal behavior. Within the African American community, the recidivism rate is astronomical. There are several motivating factors leading to recidivism within the African American community and they are as follows:

• Drug addiction

• Lack of education

• Lack of employment

• Impoverished housing

• Discrimination

Most often when African American ex-offenders return to the community, they return to the same negative environment that they left, which is usually plagued by drug addiction, criminal activity and economic depression. Today in corrections, there is a tremendous amount of focus on the recidivism rate among African Americans. In the Cook County Adult Probation Department alone, more than half of the ex-offenders are African American. A national dialogue has emerged that calls for a major re-examination of how correctional systems prepare offenders to return to society as productive, crime-free citizens.

The study of recidivism is important, because the findings could prove useful in the establishment and/or implementation of community-based programs to assist ex-offenders with a successful transition back into society. There are far too many African Americans offenders re-entering society ill-equipped, ill-prepared and with only limited


According to statistics from the Cook County Adult Probation Department as recent as September 1, 2004, there are a total of 27,398 ex-offenders on probation. Of that total, 64.45% are African Americans, 20.97% are Caucasian, and 13.58% are Hispanic. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002) predicts that 1 in 20 Americans will spend time in prison during their lifespan. The rates are substantially greater for ethnic minorities than Caucasian. An estimated 28% of African American and 16% of Hispanic males will serve time in prison in their lifetime, compared to 4.4% of Caucasian.

Crime is often related to a myriad of personal experience issues that leave a human being with a sense of disparity. Personal variables such as level of education lack of employment opportunities and access to affordable and adequate housing play major roles in resulting criminal behavior. After incarceration, individuals are often confronted with the same variables that resulted in their involvement with criminal activities in the first place, which is indicated by the almost 50% recidivism rate in Illinois (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2002).

In this research I plan to do a thorough and organized study in this area. I feel that this issue is far greater than it appear to be. It is one that affects the hearts, the souls, and the future of everyone who comes in contact with an individual that suffers from recidivism.


Approximately 27,000 individuals are scheduled for release this year from Illinois state prisons with a projected recidivism rate of almost 50%. The overwhelming majority (20,000 or more) will be returning to the Chicago land area. It has been noted that access to living wage employment is one of the key factors in reducing recidivism among ex-offenders. Therefore, it is critical to assist these individuals in finding employment as soon as possible upon their release from prison.


Why is there such a high rate of recidivism among African Americans?

I based my research question on the following:

1. Educational programs offered in the correctional institutions.

2. Statistics from the Cook County Adult Probation Department


There were no limitations to my research.


Recidivism: A relapse into criminal behavior


This paper will examine and review articles using a three-step process. First, a hand search of 64 joumals across the disciplines of justice, criminal justice, correctional education, psychology, educational psychology, school psychology, social work, special education, general education, and vocational education was completed for the years 1975 to 2004. Second, a computer search was conducted using ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center), PsychLit, general and special education, and criminal justice databases for the years 1975 to 2004. Descriptors used were correctional education, corrections, and juvenile delinquents. Third, bibliographies in identified articles were consulted to expand the research base. Articles included in the review met the following criteria: (a) discussed men who were 21 years or older who were housed in either a detention or a correctional center and (b) provided data describing ex-offenders academic characteristics, academic performance, or an academic program component or intervention.


A literature review of the academic characteristics of incarcerated African American men and the academic correctional education programs serving them was conducted. The outcomes of the review indicated incarcerated male’s function in the low-average to below-average range of intelligence, perform academically between fifth- and ninth-grade levels, and have histories of high rates of academic failure and grade retention. The predominant feature of correctional education academic programs serving these males is a broad continuum of curricular offerings, ranging from elementary school to postsecondary school levels. However, the availability of special education services for males varies from state to state. Effective instructional strategies for incarcerated males appear to be direct instruction and tutoring-based approaches. Implications of the findings for program development are discussed.

FROM 1988 TO 1997, A 56% INCREASE in the number of African American Males ordered to residential placement was observed in the United States. Of the nearly 105,000 ex-offenders held in public and private detention, correctional, and shelter facilities, more than three quarters (86.5%) are men from ethnic minority backgrounds (40% African American; 18.5% Hispanic) (Gallagher, 1999). However, women who are incarcerated tend to be younger than their counterparts.

Youth enter correctional settings with a variety of interrelated academic, social, emotional, health, and behavioral needs. Academic educational services have been identified as a major focal point for rehabilitative programming for incarcerated youth (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1994). Effective education programs in correctional settings provide a broad continuum of educational services, including basic academic skill instruction, high school programs, General Equivalency Diploma (GED) programs, special education, pre-employment training, and other programs aimed at developing social, cognitive, and life skills (Coffey & Gemignani, 1994).

Quality correctional education services for incarcerated individuals have been recognized as important to successful transition by these ex-offenders into society for several reasons. First, correctional education may be the last opportunity for some incarcerated males to acquire academic and vocational skills. Researchers have indicated that 43% of the males participating in correctional remedial education programs did not return to school following their release from correctional facilities. Sixteen percent enrolled in schools and dropped out within 5 months (LeBlanc, Pfannenstiel, & Tashjian, 1991). Previously, Habermann and Quinn (1986) had indicated that small percentages of ex-offenders earned either their high school diploma or GED certificate following their release from correctional facilities. In Habermann and Quinn's study, of 759 previously incarcerated males, 12 (1.6%) earned their high school diploma and 80 (10.6%) received GED certificates after their release. Second, in a follow-up study of incarcerated male offenders, those who earned a GED certificate and completed a vocational program were three times more likely to be employed within 6 months of their release than offenders who had not completed such programs. Ex-offenders who earned a GED or completed a vocational program were two times as likely to be employed 6 months after their release when compared to a male who had not completed either program (Black et al., 1996). Other studies have also reported reduced recidivism rates among incarcerated males who earned a high school diploma or GED certificate when compared to incarcerated male who had not earned such credentials (Ambrose & Lester, 1988; Brier, 1994).

Unfortunately, ex-offenders with disabilities appear to have a difficult time moving from correctional facilities to mainstream environments. Youth with disabilities make up a substantial portion (12% to 70%) of the incarcerated juvenile population (Wolford, 2000). Juvenile offenders with disabilities experience a higher rate of recidivism when compared to incarcerated youth without disabilities. In a follow-up study by Black et al., (1996) of juvenile offenders, 20% of the youth with disabilities had recidivated within 6 months after their release compared to the 12% recidivism rate for youth without disabilities.

A review of the current status of correctional education programs served within secure facilities appears to be warranted for several reasons:

1. The diversity of the student population suggests unique educational needs.

2. Educational opportunities appear to be limited to their periods of confinement.

3. Incarcerated males with disabilities appear to experience difficulty making a successful transition from correctional facilities to society.

4. Lower recidivism and greater employment rates have been observed for previously incarcerated males who successfully completed academic and vocational programs.


The purpose of this literature is not one of criticism of these policies but rather a look at similarities and differences with some discussion of their possible impact, and an offering of recommendations to promote ex-offernders hiring in light of new regulations.


After incarceration, ex-offenders are often confronted with the same factors that resulted in their involvement with criminal activities in the first place, which is indicated by the almost 50% recidivism rate in Illinois (Bureau of Justice Statistic). One factor which influences the reduction of recidivism is an ex-offenders ability to gain quality employment. Gaining empolyment that would provide sustainable wages and the opportunity for advancenment greatly decreases the likelihood that an ex-offender will resort back to criminal behavior after incarceration. It has been noted that policies and regulations governing the hiring process for many government agencies, as well as within private industry, have recently been undergoing review and revision in regards to the employment of ex-offenders. My sincerest hope is that these agencies contiune on this path of progress to aid and assist ex-offenders in their journey toward a brighter tomorrow.

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