Recidivism is the phenomenon where people who are released from the prison back to society tend to commit crimes, leading them back to the prison again. This phenomenon is especially obvious in the context of the United States. According to studies, it is found that 76.6% of all prisoners that are released will be back in jail after five years.
This observation is very closely linked with the currently policing strategies, which we have studied throughout this semester. Also, I found it to be closely linked to the school-to-prison pipeline, where students are directly sent from the schools to the criminal justice system.
The causes for recidivism are complicated and cannot be summarized by one or two factors. However, definitely the current policing strategies and the pipeline are playing an important role in it. As discussed in one of my previous blog posts, some students who are handed over to the criminal justice system, after being threatened by the police, would end up having a criminal record for some crimes they have never committed. This record will then follow with them for their entire lives, with no chance of getting them erased in many states of the US. The negative consequence of it is that it will push these students into a cycle of crime committing, as most of them could not find jobs due to the initial crime record, and this will increase the likelihood where they obtain economic income through illegal ways. After being caught, their criminal records just become lengthier and lengthier. This cycle of crime committing also forced them to be a part of the recidivism cycle.
Besides contributing to the recidivism in the aforementioned way, the prison to school pipeline, very often, deprives the very much needed opportunities of education from the students. Many of the students who are referred to the criminal justice system either receives punishments such as imprisonment or are suspended from schools for as long as a year. Without this education, students will be increasingly struggling academically, and eventually, be forced out of school as they are no longer academically qualified.
Current policing policies focus a lot on arresting people who have committed minor crimes. Because of this, a large number of people are sent to the prison for minor offenses, and the burden of criminal record haunts them just like how it haunts those teenagers in the previously discussed ways. Because of that, the current policing strategies are also producing an unnecessarily high number of criminals that this society cannot afford to have.
A key aspect of reducing the occurrences of recidivism is through rehabilitation. However, since the current criminal just system is already financially stretched by the large volume of inmates it has, good rehabilitation programs cannot be financially afforded by many of the prisons, especially private prisons where sending criminals back to society with proper education and skills is not the priority. Also, it will be so ironical if we could have rehabilitation program, which focuses on education at its core, before correcting and discarding the school-to-prison pipeline, which constantly puts students’ right to education at stake.
Just like how an ostrich buries its head in the sand when a danger comes, America is sending these prisoners, who are the real victims of the current failed criminal justice system, into jails that are hidden from the general public. However, burying deeper never gets the ostrich a safer place. Similarly, sending more people to jail and getting more people arrested would never tackle the problem of crime.