Recidivism

Reducing Recidivism: Why it’s Time to Move On From a Punitive Approach

The latest Bureau of Justice Statistics recidivism study found that within five years 77 percent of almost 70,000 prisoners released from 30 states have been convicted of new crimes. Prison efficiency is frequently measured by the rate of re-offense by those released into the community. The relatively high recidivism rate observed among prisoners demonstrates the ineffectiveness of current US prison systems. Not only have punitive policies been largely ineffective, they have also been wasteful and expensive. But can we diminish the costs of incarceration while also increasing the efficiency at which we prevent recidivism?

From the 1970s to the mid-2000s, prison population boomed, not only through more punitive sentences but also an increase in crime rates and, perhaps most notably, government expenditure. Punitive approaches have historically rarely achieved positive results in corrections. These approaches tend to not reduce recurrence, because they do not address the reasons why the individuals who have are released fail to transition from prison to their community. With an effective program in place, prisoners willing to participate, will lead to less recurrence and reduce both the use and costs of imprisonment.

Before evidence-based decision making and practices, those who were incarcerated had scarce access to resources necessary for their rehabilitation, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), treatment of substance abuse and dependency, sex offender treatment, education, employment programming and social support intervention. These practices have been proven to be highly effective and give the most value for our investment when applied as a system.  Therefore, it is important to incorporate and apply these programs by helping prisoners manage their needs through existing resources and support systems, ultimately reducing recidivism.