Convicted Felons Returning to the Community Term Paper

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Felons and the Community Analysis

Within the modern American justice system, there are two legal ways a felon may return to society: parole/early release or completion of sentencing. Parole is a controversial topic, and 16 states have abolished it entirely, with 4 states negating parole for certain offenses. According to the U.S. Justice Department, about 45% of parolees complete their sentence without incident, 38% are returned to prison, and 11% escape or leave the country (Office of Justice Programs, 2013).

Studies also show that there are upwards of 600,000 inmates that are released into communities on an annual basis. However, there are virtually no complete studies that have been systematic, longitudinal and focused on policy for issues involving the political, economic and social consequences of returning tens of thousands of these individuals. The studies that have been done, however, show that there are a number of unfortunate consequences surrounding prisoner release, many collateral damage: increase in child abuse, family violence, homelessness, spread of infectious disease and community discord. One author, writing for the Department of Justice, observed: ". . . implications for public safety and risk management are major factors in re-entry… the phenomenon may affect the socialization of young people, the power of prison sentences to deter, and the future trajectory of crime rates and crime victimization" (Petersilla, 2000).

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Felons Returning to the Community

The increasingly high costs of incarceration rates are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Even nations that have a substantially larger population have far lower numbers of inmates than the United States. This is largely due to longer prison sentences given, the use of incarceration for relatively minor crimes, and even the political process that pushes legislators to ensure they are not perceived as "soft on crime." In fact, prior to the 1970s, incarceration rates in the U.S. were about 100 per 100,000; by 2007 this number grew to 751 per 100,000, or a move from 1% to 7.5% (Liptak, 2008).

There is also considerable disagreement in the actual recidivism rates. One early study, accounting for about 60% of those prisoners released found that 63% of all convicts released were re-arrested within a three-year period. Further, the study noted that the re-conviction and re-incarceration rates were both higher than 40%. The groups most likely to recidivate were based on age and conviction. Recidivism and age were inversely related (the older the prisoner, the less likely for re-arrest), and prior criminal history (property offenders had higher rates) (Beck & Shipley, 1989).

Economically, the cost of incarceration is huge -- up to $60-70 billion per annum. The cost varies from state to state, but it takes about $30,000 to house and feed each prisoner, or about $80/day (Sleven, 2006). Additionally, these costs are not amortized, because about 70% of those released were rearrested within three years, and over half were back into the prison system. This same study showed that spending more time in prison had little or no effect on recidivism rates in total. The likely explanation for this is that longer the incarceration of the prisoner released the more likely the inability to re-enter society in a productive manner. Thus, the trends in the American penal system suggest that the American prison system is far from a safe environment engendering criminal rehabilitation, or even basic safety. Regardless of one's political views, the mistreatment of adolescents, rape of men and women, and other abuses are certainly beyond the very center of decent behavior from a moral society -- and the lack of oversight and interest in curtailing these issues, instead, leaving them up to the whims of budgets, is something that should be immediately rectified (Project Return - Breaking the Cycle of Crime, 2009).

Recidivism is a serious problem -- and accounts for a significant amount of the current correctional issues (overcrowding, budgets, etc.). There are a number of barriers to entry back into society, and gender and race are high predictors of how serious those barriers will be. Many scholars, in fact, believe that criminal recidivism has a high correlation to psychopathology. With gratification in criminal, sexual or aggressive impulses, this model believes that the criminal cannot learn from the past and must return to the "system" in order to feel comfortable. This, however, assumes incorrectly that most prisoners are suffering from a clear mental illness, when in fact; most (over 51%) are serving time for drug offenses or offenses committed while under the influence of a substance (Guerino, P., et al., 2011).

When looking at the economics of the issues surrounding incarceration, there are a large number of variables present: there is the direct cost of the legal system -- from investigation to trial; incarceration costs; recidivism costs; and costs of rehabilitation or returning to the community. For example, there are roughly five million people either on probation or parole in the U.S. alone. This results in greater caseloads, untrained supervising officials, and more offenders having parole revoked and resent to prison. One hard economic statistic shows that, on average, it costs $80/inmate per day to incarcerate, but only $8/inmate per day for parole. Thus, the figures for the parole or probation population run about $40 million per day or about $14.5 billion dollars per year.

This is not a true economic cost, though, since it represents only the cost to administer parole and probation sentencing; it does not include unemployment, social services, therapy, etc. (Maruschak & Parks, 2012; Smart on Crime, 2012).

Leadership Styles of Stakeholders

There are a large number of stakeholders that have a specific interest in the issues surrounding returning convicted felons to society: law enforcement (local and state/national), public administration, social services, the community, special interest groups, lobbyists, victims and victim families, and the convicted criminal themselves.

Stakeholder

Primary Leadership Style

Analysis/Comments

Law Enforcement

Bureaucratic.

By the nature of the job, there are rules and regulations. "By the book" is the operative style. Useful in creating equity and safety; downside is lack of flexibility, creativity, or innovation.

Public Administration

Bureaucratic

See above

Social Services

Bureaucratic

See above

Community

Transactional

Leadership by transaction or by individual event; can be participatory or autocratic. Positives include role clarification and dividing up performance issues; Downside is perceived lack of personal power and frustration with bureaucracy.

Special Interest Groups

Mixed

Depending on the group styles change; for instance, a victim's rights group would have a different agenda and style than a prisoner's rights or civil liberties group.

Lobbyists

People Oriented

Again, depending on viewpoint, the style would change. By in large, though, lobbyists try to influence opinion and political action. Thus, they are focused on organizing and developing relationships.

Victims / Victim's Families

Transactional and Autocratic

Personality and issue driven; often logic is not a part of this paradigm, and emotions run high. Depending on personalities, may be autocratic and extreme, pushing for efficiency and action; not compromise and debate.

Convict / Convict's Families

Transactional and Autocratic

See above

(Mind Tools, 2012; Murray, 2013; Benincasa, 2012)

Public Administration and Leadership

Often, public administration focuses on ex-offenders as part of the collateral consequences of disenfranchisement, disqualification for some forms of social assistance, or the lack of the ex-offender being part of the democratic process as a whole. For public administration, safety is almost always a chief concern. Citizens want to feel safe in their community, want to feel that their children can play in parks and playgrounds, and have a general feeling of "community" without fear of victimization. It is this concern for safety that has led to a higher rate of incarceration over the past several decades. When the public demands higher levels of security, politicians often see the easiest "solution" in imposing harsher and longer sentences for minor crimes and "getting tougher" on rules regarding parole or probation. However, most scholars in the field believe that Public Administration can actually provide a greater leadership role by addressing the high levels of recidivism and providing greater opportunities for the parolee (Dunleavy & Hood, 1994).

Theories of Effective Policy Development

Effective public administration implies that governmental policies are implemented in a fair and equitable manner that is positive for society. It must advance management principles so that government and governmental programs can function. There are a number of approaches that public administration can take: behavioral, systems, ecological, or contingency; and a number of theoretical options within each of these broader categories. For instance:

Behavioral Public Administration became more popular during the Depression Era of the 1930s. Instead of focusing on organizations, institutionalization, rules and codes the role of PA became more of a relevant approach to organization and communication between various members of society -- the what, how and why things happened. In terms of the returning felon, this approach looks at the barriers to re-entry, the way that government not only punishes, but looks at potential rehabilitation, and the multidisciplinary approach to using PA as a tool to ensure both the safety of society and the positive benefit for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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