Reducing Recidivism

by TChris

Are ever-increasing sentences the best answer to repeated criminal behavior? An editorial in today's New York Times points to a report prepared for the Council of State Governments that "argues that the country needs to reinvent its corrections system." The report suggests that governments should take steps to help offenders avoid a return to crime after their release from prison as the best hope of reducing recidivism.

This line of thinking is long overdue. The United States has 2.1 million people behind bars on any given day .... The portrait of the inmate population offered in the report leaves no doubt as to why two-thirds of the people who leave prison are rearrested within a few years. These people were marginally employable before they went to jail - nearly half earned less than $600 a month. They are even less employable afterward, thanks to criminal records. In addition, many of them suffer from mental illnesses that often go untreated after release.

Providing help with housing, employment, and mental health care might break the cycle that returns offenders to prison -- at a huge cost to society -- again and again. It's time for state governments to give serious thought to the proposals advanced in the report. (Executive summary here.)

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    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#2)
    by Patrick on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 11:05:14 AM EST
    The death penalty.... Elimiates recidivism.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 11:06:41 AM EST
    Yes, you can keep people from going to prison, by making kids of all races understand what duty is. but this will never happen, because both the right and left hate people. understand both the right rats and the left people must hate people because both sides look at people like tools to be used for all kinds of political agendas, whites and hispanics and blacks are under attack by all sides and we will all suffer for our non ideals. And by the way we are the Aliens in the eyes of our non government and all sides and all cultures will suffer the real agenda of mass imprisonment withour bars.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 11:56:40 AM EST
    Fred is it just me or has your recent post begun to possess a real sense of a "true conspiralist". keep up the good work, no sarcasm intended.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#5)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 12:03:55 PM EST
    Yes, you can keep people from going to prison, by making kids of all races understand what duty is. Actually, this is the first thing I've ever read of Fred's that I could make heads or tails of, and lo and behold, I couldn't agree with it more!

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#6)
    by Patrick on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 12:46:53 PM EST
    Sarcastic, Yeah, but then the rest of his post........????

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#7)
    by Che's Lounge on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 01:24:23 PM EST
    Well Fred may seem a bit esoteric, but I also see that our ever-improving comprehension has opened up horizons that go way beyond things like prisons, and borders and war. It's frustrating to live in an age when we can see our potential and yet we cannot move beyond selfishness and greed to realize even a fraction of it... Now I wonder if we'll make it at all. Does anyone disagree that the planet has the resources, and there exists the technology to house and feed the 2.4 billion people on Earth? It's just frustrating.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 01:29:53 PM EST
    I'm not sure handing former inmates free housing, etc is a good idea. A friend of mine who was a crack addict went through rehab and all his bills were paid, housing, food, dental etc. When the dole ended he couldn't pay any of his bills because he had become dependent on others to do everything for him. Eventually he held up a bank, not because he didn't have a job, because he did, but because he had become addicted again and spent all his money on crack and couldn't afford anything else. He spent three years in prison, minimum security, where he worked hard cutting brush on state land and was released early. He still found solace in the bottle, combined with the anti-depressents that were perscribed by his gov't paid psycologist and landed back in rehab for one last chance. I'm am happy to report that he is doing better now with the help of his new found church and their support. In the end it wasn't a gov't giveaway that saved this man it was the private community and his personal strength that did. As he has expressed it wasn't the gov't that helped him out it was concerned individuals that vouchsafed for him in his time of need. Rewarding bad behavior just endorses more of the same.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#9)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 01:54:16 PM EST
    Patrick The rest of Fred's post is pure jibberish. jondee pretty much sums up my feelings on this subject.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#10)
    by Quaker in a Basement on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 02:11:44 PM EST
    Many communities are developing restorative justice programs. Restorative justice requires a person convicted of a crime to make direct amends to the victim(s) and community. It's especially effective when dealing with property crimes and young offenders. Boulder county in Colorado has an especially good RJ program. Restorative justice isn't a cure-all, but it has proven effective in reconnecting young offenders to their communities instead of increasing their alienation.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 02:41:12 PM EST
    Amen, === Not all ex-inmates are crack/meth/alcohol addicts. Many of them just want jobs and a chance. But society does make it difficult. Nothing ever goes away. As for the RJ programs, good in some instances, not applicable in others. In addition, many sentences include fines or restitution. Sincew the govmint is involved, I'm not sure how much of that ever gets back to the victims, but that's another story.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 02:44:22 PM EST
    And as for Patrick (the death penalty eliminates recidivism) Never mind. That comment is so obviously absurd and I just don't have the energy..

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 02:59:58 PM EST
    As for the non-violent drug offenders- creating a new government program designed to reverse the ill effects of another government program is simply compounding error with error. It was after all a government program that kicked in their front doors and put them in prison to begin with. Why not address the root source of the problem and end prohibition?

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#14)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Jan 21, 2005 at 04:03:35 PM EST
    I think the first sentance of Fred's post addresses the root source of the problem.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#15)
    by cp on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 08:19:08 AM EST
    perhaps, we ought to consider opening up the dry tortugas again, for use as a penal institution. it worked for dr. mudd. like alcatrez, escape is nearly impossible, and i believe it would cut down on drug use. costs of security would be reduced as well. where the heck are they going to go? put the worst of the worst there, and save the domestic institutions for those who can be rehabbed. just a thought.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#16)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 10:04:49 PM EST
    I have thought about an incentive based model of privatized prisons where the companies running the prisons earn bonus dollars for every year that an inmate or "graduate" from their institution succeeds on the outside. I would have a pretty structured definition of sucess - like tax returns showing that the graduate is self-supporting, a police record clean of anything more than traffic and parking tickets, clean random UAs, that sort of thing. I suspect there is a profit to all of us in true rehabilitation of convicted felons.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#17)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 11:07:18 PM EST
    Actually, I liked the LAST part of Fred's comment the best; he makes a wonderful point that people on the left often seem to use the poor & oppressed minorities merely as rhetorical devices for Bush-bashing (rather than actually helping these people); and the right often demonizes the poor & oppressed merely to have an opportunity to criticize the lunacy of progressive policies...as a legal aid lawyer, I often felt that my clients were simply political footballs in the hands of people who only wanted to be in office. I hope Fred comments on what I have to say, and whether I'm doing the same thing without realizing it. I hope not. I am in favor of making social welfare programs much more generous, but I confess I think this is the WRONG WAY to argue for it - it plays into the hands of right-wingers who like to portray welfare recipients as "cheaters" who take advantage of society's generosity, or as drug addicts, criminals, gang members, etc. If we want to help the poor, we have to win over more support in the wider population. We have to sell the idea to the majority of Americans. Feeding the conceptual association of welfare with crime undermines this objective - in the worst way possible. You will never generate widespread sympathy for people who have robbed innocent civilians, or killed someone, or raped, or even engaged in drug trafficking. Most poor people do not do these things; we do a disservice to the poor when we try to blame crime on poverty, because it feeds the misperception that poor people are criminals. We should do more to help the poor. This will accomplish the goal of reintegration of convicts into society. Even when a convict cannot access certain programs or jobs, if their family and social network is stronger, they have a very real safety net. Helping the poor strengthens the economic stablity of poor neighborhoods, creates opportunities for employment generally, and helpd family members help each other. We want them to be re-integrated into society, right? Then don't advocate programs that treat them like an island - someone who should go get his own job, his own place to live, his own car, and forget about everybody else. That's not reintegration, that's absorptionist isolation. Liberals failed to make the welfare crisis an issue in this past election. They were so enamored with Howard Dean's ability to rally some college students with his anti-war message, that this was adopted as the center of the platform. This was a sell-out. If you want to help the poor AND released felons, just advocate on behalf of the poor. Don't play into the hands of the people who can harm the poor even more.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#18)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 26, 2005 at 08:43:15 PM EST
    Mentor1911@msn.com I have 17 felonies on my record. I've spent most of my adult life in prison and I am 31 now. Drugs and crime were my life and they almost killed me. I chose to live that life while hurting everyone around me, even the ones I loved. Insanity, all of it. No person or program made me stop. I would not have stopped if someone gave me a house or a car or my license. If someone or some program had made it easier for me I still would have failed. I would have become another statistic. Welfare programs don't work. Working works. I rode a bicycle 15 miles to a farm supply store where I manually moved tons of alfalfa and orchard grass along with tons of feed for livestock, then I rode home. I paid my old fines and got my license back. I joined college and am achieving a 4.0 grade average. I pay my fines every month. I take UAs and pass them. I obey laws. I see my daughters every weekend. I went to my grandma's funeral wearing a $500 suit. I pay all my bills on time. I show up for work early and leave late. I don't cuss... When the time came that I decided to change, I did. No, not all by myself. Willpower is not strong enough in any man for that. I sought out the professional and nonprofessional help of people I admired and respected. I volunteered for a 9 month program and stayed in for 19. I not only learned the material but turned around and taught it to other inmates by the hundreds. My college education is geared toward psychology so I can show others what I've done, and that they can do it too. Most convicts don't listen to counselors, they listen to other convicts. Sad fact. If ever you wish to know about a program that is not perfect but very good, it is called the Integirty Program at Larch corrections center and it is voluntary. For those who are willing to do the work, it is a powerful catalyst for change: Emotional Growth Training Moral Reconation Therapy Victim Awareness Stress/Anger Management Substance Abuse Education Core Skills Critical Thinking Errors Handbook Study Relapse Prevention One on One Counseling Peer Awareness It goes on and on, all day, every day. In a nutshell, what I learned there was accountability, responsibility, and the skillpower to follow through with my willpower. It is the success stories who will ultimately lead the way out of recidivism, I believe.

    Re: Reducing Recidivism (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 23, 2005 at 11:36:34 AM EST
    RE: "Providing help with housing, employment,..." Rather than "providing help" what about simply removing the HUGE OBSTRUCTIONS they face. For example, both potential employers and apartment management companies do a backgroud check and deny hiring/renting to people with criminal backgrounds. Great, some guy busted for selling oxycontin on the street will serve years and years in prison and when he gets out no one will hire him for a job as a welder or dry-waller... and he can't even rent an apartment BECAUSE OF A BACKGROUND CHECK.