Research Paper: Recidivism Rates and Causes

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[. . .] (2) Elimination of Disparities -- Governments should eliminate policies that create racial and other improper disparities, which undermine the goal of equality and fairness under the law.

(3) Alternatives to Incarceration -- Incarceration should be reserved to punish the most serious crimes. Community placement and supervision that include a combination of sanctions and access to treatment and other services, especially for individuals who have an addiction and/or mental illness, have proven successful. Government should aggressively pursue these alternatives to help ensure more effective and just outcomes.

(4) Proportionate Punishment -- Sentencing laws should ensure that the punishment fits the crime and that judges have sufficient discretion to impose a sentence no greater than necessary to achieve the ends of justice.

(5) Incarceration, Rehabilitation and Reentry -- The system should provide rehabilitation to those leaving the prison system and facilitate their participation in society for a successful reentry. Terms of incarceration must be safe and provide access to services that prepare individuals for reentry. Such services include education, training, opportunities for spiritual support, contact with families, treatment for medical and behavioral health problems, and, upon release, access to housing and other essential services.

(6) Effectiveness -- All strategies and practices that the criminal justice system employs should meet evidence-based or, when possible, scientific standards of effectiveness. This will improve the effectiveness of law enforcement, investigation, prosecution, and punishment; increase the public faith and trust in the system by minimizing mistakes and improving results; and reduce costs by increasing accuracy and reducing recidivism.

(7) Cost -- More than one in every 100 adults in the U.S. is behind bars.1 If the 2.3 million people behind bars were a city, it would be the fourth largest in the country.2 The U.S. prison system costs taxpayers more than $60 billion per year. Prisons and jails are filled with persons who are non-violent, many of whom have an untreated addiction, mental illness, or other disability. (The Sentencing Project, 2008)

According to the sentencing project in order to reduce recidivism and strengthen families the following is needed:

1. Require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt policies to ensure prisoners have access to services/programs that will reduce barriers to reentry. These services/programs should include all of those listed in the proposed "reentry behind bars" bill listed below: (a) drug treatment programs in prison for all drug offenders as well as funding for the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program to provide access to a complete continuum of addiction treatment, aftercare, and recovery support services; (b) government-issued ID cards upon release; (c) enrollment for Medicaid prior to release (so that it is available upon release); (d) alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders; (e) merit-based reductions in sentences for non-violent offenders; (f) SSA prerelease agreement; (g) a requirement that individuals under 18 shall not be housed in adult facilities; (h) restore Pell Grant eligibility to prisoners; (i) access to clean needles and condoms in order to reduce the incidence of HIV / AIDS, Hepatitis, and other illnesses; (j) access to educational programs/job training for every prisoner; (k) access to religious services; (l) transportation to prisons for prisoners' families; (m) opportunities for parents in prison to visit with their children; and (n) regulate costs of collect calls from prisons. (The Sentencing Project, 2009)

Long-Term needs are identified by the Sentencing Project as well. The long-terms needs for addressing recidivism include those as follows:

(1) Appropriate full funding for Second Chance Act.

(2) Extend federal voting rights to people released from prison.

(3) Restore welfare and food stamp benefits for individuals with drug felony convictions: (a) Eliminate the lifetime ban on TANF and food stamp eligibility for people with drug felony convictions; (b) Repeal Section 115(a) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (21 U.S.C. 862a (a)).

(4) Repeal the financial aid ban for Students with drug convictions: (a) Pass legislation to fully repeal the aid elimination penalty from the Higher Education Act; (b) Repeal 20 U.S.C. 1091 (r);

(5) Remove unfair barriers to housing: (a) Pass the No One Strike Eviction Act, H.R. 6785 from 110th Congress; (b) Amend 42 U.S.C. 1437d (k); (c) Pass the Public Safety Ex-Offender Self Sufficiency Act, H.R. 6206 from 109th Congress; (d) Amend Subpart D of part IV of subchapter A of chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

(6) Expand employment opportunities for people with criminal records: (a) Amend the Higher Education Act to restore Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated people; (b) Amend the Higher Education Act (most recently reauthorized in August 2008, now PL 110-315) to allow incarcerated persons to apply for Pell Grants. In 1994, Congress eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for people who are incarcerated. Most post-secondary higher education programs in prisons closed as a result. Education is one of the best deterrents to reoffending; (c) In a study conducted for the U.S. Department of Education, researchers found that participation in state correctional education programs lowers the likelihood of re-incarceration by 29%. In addition, this study concluded that for every dollar spent on education, more than two dollars in reduced prison costs would be returned to taxpayers; (d) Codify Current EEOC Guidance on Hiring People with Criminal Records _ Create a federal standard based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) policy guidance on the use of criminal background checks for employment purposes when screening for arrest and conviction. This guidance currently asks employers to consider the relationship between the offense and the job position, how long ago the offense occurred, the severity of the offense, and any evidence of rehabilitation; (e) Criminal record policies that bar applicants with criminal record histories from employment should be amended to not only include a requirement for individualized determinations but may include a graduated period of consideration of the criminal record based upon the severity of the individual's criminal history. Consideration of a criminal record should not be permitted beyond seven years; (f) Strengthen the Work Opportunity Tax Credit; (g) Amend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), authorized by the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-188). Currently, under the WOTC program, employers who hire low-income individuals with criminal records can reduce their federal income tax liability by up to $2,400 per qualified new worker. Congress should increase the WOTC tax credit for individuals with criminal records to match the tax credit available for individuals who qualify as Long-term Family Assistance recipients. There is a $6,600 difference between the two credits.

(7) Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act: (a) Any reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (Public Law 105- 220) should include provisions for hard to serve populations, including those individuals with criminal histories, through the WIA one-stop system. Pass the "Fairness & Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act"; (b) Approve the "Fairness & Accuracy in Employment Background Checks Act" bipartisan legislation introduced in the House at the end of the 110th Congress (H.R. 7033); this legislation seeks to provide critical safeguards when the FBI conducts criminal background checks for employment purposes.

(8) Expand access to drug and alcohol treatment. Appropriate increased funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. (The Sentencing Project, 2008)

Summary and Conclusion

This work has reviewed the literature on recidivism in the United States and has found that high rates of recidivism are due to lack of financial investment in re-entry of prisoners to society, lack of supports to assist prisoners with reintegration into society, as well as societal barriers that exist which effectively bar the individual who has served time for a felony conviction to function as a normal member of society. Recommendations stated by the Sentencing Project for assist with reintegration following incarceration include such as the provision of education through removal of legislation that bars the individual access to pill grants. Also recommended by the Sentencing Project is the removal of bans to drawing food stamps by individuals who are released from serving felony convictions.

Presently there are far too many barriers to individuals reintegrating into society and this results in a high rate of recidivism. It cannot be expected that these individuals will be successful upon their release unless they are provided with some type of means to ensure that success. It is important to remember that newly released offenders have the same needs for food, shelter, clothing, medical care as well as other needs as do individual who have not committed any type of crime. It is necessary that those who are newly released from a period of incarceration be provided with the essentials needed to function in the society of today

References

Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Next administration and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Recidivism Rates and Causes."  Essaytown.com.  November 2, 2010.  Accessed May 25, 2019.
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