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Recidivism

Recidivism has been a long-standing issue in the United States. Many are working to reduce recidivism rates and help people integrate better back into society after incarceration. Individuals struggle with having someplace to go and support when released from prison, which leads them to recidivate.

One solution to reducing recidivism is providing higher education as described in an article by the UCI. Since 2014, all 35 California state penitentiaries have partnered with community colleges to provide those incarcerated the chance to earn an associate degree. Further, UCI has launched an initiative, Leveraging Inspiring Futures Through Education Degrees, that is the first in-prison B.A. completion program offered by the University of California . This will allow for those incarcerated to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

With “at least 95 percent of people in California prisons return[ing] to their communities”, most lack the skills and resources to be able to compete and succeed in today’s job market. With the help of the program, those who complete the program with at least a 3.5 GPA are automatically able to fully enroll in UCI once released. This breaks down the barrier of individuals lacking an education, not being able to get one and helping set them up for a better future and being part of a safer community for all.

The program is working hard to change the lives of those affected by incarceration in California and providing second, supportive chances at life. People deserve an education and to turn their lives around even if they have struggled in the past. Lowering recidivism rates through education makes the community safer and turns the lives around of people working hard to do so.

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Recidivism

Many youth struggle with being on the right path in life. It is easy to get swept up in street gangs, violence and drugs when that’s all their family knows and when they are not supported as children should be. The world is a hard place and many lives go in the wrong direction, like Dyjuan Tatro’s did. He dropped out of high school around the 10th grade to sell drugs and a few years later was sentenced to prison for assault. This is just one of the many stories you hear about a juvenile’s life taking a turn for the worse. However, he was able to turn it around by finishing his education while incarcerated.

The Politico published an article about the high recidivism rates in the United States and how we have the answer to solving this problem at the tip of our fingers, educating incarcerated individuals. In the United States, individuals who are released from prison often return to a life of crime and have a hard time turning their lives around once incarcerated. PEW found in a study that in 23 states, 37% of released individuals in 2012 returned to prison within three years and 46% released in 2010 returned to prison within five years. Recidivism is an issue as many individuals in prison did not finish school and lack the resources and support to return to life once they are released.

Access to schooling and receiving an education is slowly increasing in prison systems. A correlation has been found between those who complete their education while incarcerated and lower recidivism rates. Fewer than 3% of graduates of Bard Prison Initiative in New York, returned to prison compared to over 30% of individuals released from the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision returning to prison. Providing an education for incarcerated individuals helps them get back on their feet and sets them up for success when released, which reduces recidivism and saves public funds that would be spent looking after people in jail or prison.

However, having access to an education was difficult until the Department of Education announced its Second Chance Pell Pilot Program in 2015. “By expanding educational opportunities for some people behind bars, the program aimed to help individuals returning home acquire work, financially support their families and claim a second chance for a better life.” The program only currently allows around 10,000 students to receive funding to attend classes at certain institutions, turning away hundreds of thousands who are eligible for the funding. If the number of individuals allowed to receive funding increased, recidivism rates would go down drastically as many would have the opportunity to receive an education while incarcerated.

Thankfully, in July, lawmakers introduced legislation to repeal the Pell Grant ban in July. There are many success stories like Dyjuan Tatro’s but also so many that slip through the cracks who could benefit from receiving an education while incarcerated. It reduces recidivism and can make or break an individual’s life when it comes to supporting themselves once released.

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Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform initiatives are aimed at fighting to reduce mass incarceration and the suffering incarceration has on populations. An article published by Forbes talks about improving the lives of millions and saving money by investing in criminal justice reform. According to the article, 6% of GDP ($1.2 trillion) goes to the direct cost of incarceration. They focus on bringing attention to the sustainable movements that hopefully will lower this number. 

There are many different parties involved with prisons and the care of prisons. Forbes brought attention to the statistics that roughly 4,000 companies profit off of incarceration, whether that be through investments or initiatives through the prison systems. Many companies profit off of bails and incarceration or post-incarceration fees. Some Fortune 500 companies have even been known to make a profit off prison labor, opposed to the inmates. As this helps these companies, it is detrimental to prisoners and the prison system in general. Money is being taken out of the prison system to pay companies. 

Another dilemma faced is prison exclusion versus engagement. Strategic engagement with publicly traded companies includes anything from meetings to shareholder investments. Private prison operators usually hold the responsibility of working with companies like this to make a profit or provide services to stand out. All of these are based on social factors, that in the end if improving the criminal justice system were to prevail, would result in major societal benefits. The prisoners and former prisoners would be able to have more rewarding lives and the government would save billions that goes towards incarceration.

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