Convicted criminals who have served their jail term successfully are supposed to be integrated into the society as reformed citizens. According to Langan and Levin (2002), out of the 300,000 prisoners released from fifteen states jail in the U.S. in 1994, sixty seven percent were rearrested in a three years period. Similar studies in 1983 shows sixty-two percent recidivism. The studies also indicate that, as much as 50 percent of recidivism criminals were convicted for new crimes. This implies that, ex-convicts who recidivate commits new crime and are likely to be more violent than previously. Apparently, recidivism incidences among ex-convicts are on the rise annually. This can be attributed to several factors such as lack of proper rehabilitation, training, and education of prisoners by the prison system. The current policy sanctions severe penalties to deter recidivism, as well as expansion of the prison facilities to cater for an increase of convicts. This approach has failed to address recidivism trend among former convicts (Howells, 2000). Therefore, this paper endeavors to explore effective alternatives to this problem.
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Offering employment programs to convicts is one of the most effective ways of reducing recidivism. People turn to criminal activities if they lack skills and employment to give them a source of income. In the U.S., California State Department of Correction, and Rehabilitation (CSDCR), through the Re-Entry Employment Options Project (REEOP) study, tells a success story of providing training and job placement to prisoners who leave prison with no entrance to specialized programs in Los Angels. The year 2009-program participants were assessed on their employment history and skills to determine suitable job placement available for them. The findings shows that, among 108 sampled ex-convicts, only 10 percent experienced recidivism during the study duration. This was lower compared to the 40 percent annual recidivism recorded among paroled offenders released from Californian prisons in 2005 (Community Development Department, 2009).
The Consolidated Work Opportunity Tax Credit Program (WOTC) rewards employers who hire ex-convicts with federal tax credit of up to $2,400 for every ex-convict. Through such rewards, potential employers who want to benefit from this incentive will considerably regard more ex-convicts.
The Federal Bonding Program is another policy alternative that encourages employers to hire ex-convicts. This program is a partnership between the United States department of labor and the McLaughlin Company. The program insures employers against employees’ theft for those Companies that hire ex-convicts. These policy alternatives are some of the successes of offering ex-convicts with employment thereby reducing recidivism.
Statement of Evaluative Criteria
When employment programs are incorporated in to the prison system, it provides equity and liberty among ex-convicts. Prisoners are offered the opportunity to their right of access to education and information. Many statistics available suggests that the level of education is proportional to proneness to crime. The higher an individual level of education, the lower the crime disposition. This is because; educated individual is more likely to get employment than a less educated individual is. With prison employment programs, many of the disadvantaged in the society will have an equal opportunity like other members in leading decent lives. This will also promote freedom and liberty of the society in general. When the level of crime goes down, the society feels safer and carries on with daily activities without fear.
Employment programs will also enhance the effectiveness of the prison system. The principal aim of the prison system is correctional function. It is supposed to correct prisoners’ inclination to crime. According to studies, the current system seems to be contrary to this objective. Employment programs on the other hand have shown reduction in recidivism cases according to many studies. This policy will ensure the prison system is more effective in ensuring few, if any, prisoners return back to prison after release. The program is effective in reducing congestion in prisons not to mention reduced cases of crimes in the society.
Assessment of Alternatives
Education and training of prisoners can reduce cases of recidivism since it addresses the root cause of many cases of crime. Employments of ex-convicts also afford them a source of income. Ex-convicts will have empowerment to make a living when they are trained or employed. Imposing tough sentences and prison expansion is not only expensive, but cannot solve the problem of recidivism in the society as the current policy has shown. The approach is also counterproductive in both social and economical sense. Long jail terms translate to long maintenance costs for criminals. The training and employment program, on the other hand, provides a cheaper and more effective approach to this problem. The savings realized from reduced prison population, can be used to remunerate ex-convicts and enhance employment programs in prisons. The program’s ultimate goal is to reduce cases of recidivism and ensure that less people are sent to jail (Visher, Winterfield & Coggeshall, 2005).
Research has also shown that criminals are not deterred from committing crime because of heavy penalties. Alternatively, economic empowerment is more effective in reducing criminal activities than the heavy penalties. Existing records of ex-convicts can be used to gauge the effectiveness of this policy. This will be achieved by assessing new convicts to verify whether they have previous criminal records. With time, the likelihood of recidivism can decline dramatically. Thus, if provided with an alternative way of earning an income, most criminals will not engage in illegal activities (Rosenberg, 2012).
The training and employment program is the most effective way to deal with recidivism in the society. Training within the prison ensures that convicts are engaged in positive and constructive activities. The confinement of criminals in seclusion gives them the opportune time to learn more crime tactics from each other (Howells, 2000). Although society is protected from dangerous criminals by the penitentiary system, this is temporal. Once the criminals are released, they come out as hardened criminals with “better skills” to commit crimes. Through training and employment, criminal gangs have less time to share criminal ideas in prisons. They are also “psychologically” tuned to constructive behaviors.
Lack of education and employment has been noted as the underlying factor of committing crimes. Factors that make a person commit a crime in the first place are more likely to play a role the second time (Recidivism in Connecticut, 2001). Thus, it can be argued that if lack of education and employment drives a person to commit a crime to survive, he/she is likely to commit another crime due to the same factors. It then follows that training and employment is one of the most effective ways of changing and rehabilitating ex-convicts.
In conclusion, the overall social economic well-being of the society can be improved through training and employment programs for ex-convicts. Trained and educated ex-convicts will be more productive and will contribute to the economy of the country. Their social integration will be highly enhanced, and there will much fewer cases of recidivism. Moreover, prisons will live up to their noble cause of incarceration with an aim of correcting and not punishing. This, in the end, will translate to less crime and a less costly penitentiary system. This will save respective governments several billions of dollars and the economy would be better.
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