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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

The Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice published a statement highlighting the need for justice in youth prisons. The United States criminal justice system like many other systems has flaws. The U.S. has long been the global leader in youth incarceration, as it locks young people up at a higher rate than any other nation. This effects not only the youth, but also their families and social ties by creating trauma and burdens on all. Youth incarceration is overused, as well as ineffective and inefficient when it comes to changing their behavior and positively influencing them.

More cities are realizing that in order to keep youth off the streets and out of jail, they need to have access to community programs and rehabilitative resources. Adolescents are still growing and developing when they are convicted of crimes and sitting in jail does not help them develop or learn from their mistakes. Punitive measures are becoming less and less conducive to changing the behavior of individuals, especially youth. Proper intervention for youth at risk of committing crimes is beneficial for the individual and public safety.

Racism also plays a heavy role in youth incarceration. With justice reform being a prominent topic right now, racism must also be addressed in youth prison systems. By dismantling youth prison systems, it protects children from physical and mental abuse, addresses the problem of racism, and provides alternatives to programs that will help steer adolescents in the right direction.

The joint statement by Fair and Just Prosecution and Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice on Youth Prisons highlights all of these issues and how improving youth corrections will improve public safety, reduce recidivism and keep children from falling into the revolving door of the criminal justice system. There needs to be positive and supportive change in their lives for them to realize the potential they have. Rehabilitation is the new ‘punishment’, in the hopes of helping adolescents stay out of prison and creating second chances for them.

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Recidivism
Hudson Link, with the help of Mount Saint Mary College, will help provide access to higher education at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. The article goes into detail about how two dozen incarcerated men will have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences. “The Hudson Link and Mount Saint Mary College will facilitate the program at the correctional facility”, providing the opportunity for people incarcerated to earn a higher education.

Hudson Link is a nonprofit that provides college education, life skills, and reentry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. They hope to help make a positive impact on the lives of the prisoners and their families and communities. With providing access to a higher education, they also hope to reduce recidivism rates and poverty because prisoners will be able to attain better jobs. The recidivism rate for people who have completed the Hudson Link program is less than 3% and they have high hopes it will stay this low. The numbers for men being accepted into the program are growing and increasing their access to earning the bachelor’s degree. So far 21 men are scheduled to complete the degree in two years, which helps the employability once released from prison.

Pursuing a degree while incarcerated can be difficult but thanks to companies and institutions like Hudson Link and Mount Saint Mary College, degrees are attainable. They want to continue to help reduce recidivism rates and provide access to education for incarcerated individuals.
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Jail Overcrowding

According to an article written by the Times News, a former inmate of the Sullivan County Jail in Tennessee filed a $3 million law suit over the conditions of the jail. The inmate recalls how dangerous and overcrowded the jail was, as well as being understaffed and lacking security. He also tells his story of how he was assaulted by a correctional officer in October of 2018. Due to understaffing, lack of security and the jail not being run properly, many inmates suffer from violence from correctional officers and other inmates.

The Sullivan County Jail was built 35 years ago and is designed to accommodate 620 inmates. However, because of overcrowding it has been known to typically hold between 900 and 1,000 inmates. Some inmates do not have beds and sleep on floors in the facility, being supervised by two guards to every 300 or so inmates. The facility has been known to be considered poorly designed, with lots of blind spots, maze like corridors and security cameras that can easily be covered. These issues cause major safety threats and problems to the health of inmates and corrections officers. 

The lawsuit filed by the former inmate listed excessive force, failure to protect an inmate in custody, failure to train and supervise officers, unsafe jail conditions, assault and battery, false improvement and outrageous conduct. Overcrowding in prisons and jails leads to many safety risks and harm on both guards and inmates. It is a problem that needs to be addressed as the number of inmates increases in facilities globally. 

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