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Recidivism

Recidivism is a problem that all previously incarcerated individuals struggle with once released. Within 3 years, around 83% of individuals released from prison will be sent back according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The social costs of recidivism are widespread. Many struggle with finding a stable lifestyle as it is hard for them to maintain positive relationships while going in and out of prison. Another barrier is the ability to find and maintain a stable job and income to provide for themselves. The stigma of having a prior conviction on one’s record causes issues for individuals when it comes to finding a job and housing after being released. A lot of individuals also struggle with the stigma associated with wearing an ankle monitoring device. It can cause frustration and a lack of will to want to do everyday life activities. This impairs their ability to lead as normal a life as possible when entering society again.

There are also major financial costs of recidivism for individuals and also for the criminal justice system. Individuals now face the costs of lawyers, posting bail and losing their jobs again. When people cannot make bail and are on pretrial, they take up resources such as jail space and facility costs. According to the Federal Register, the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates was $34,704.12 ($94.82 per day) in 2016 and $36,299.25 ($99.45 per day) in FY 2017. The average annual cost to confine an inmate in a Residential Re-entry Center was $29,166.54 ($79.69 per day) in 2016 and $32,309.80 ($88.52 per day) in 2017. This adds up quickly when jails and prisons are over max capacity and the funding for these facilities comes from taxpayer money. There are solutions to reduce the social and financial costs of recidivism through innovative solutions and technology.

TRACKtech is a mobile solution designed to address the challenges of high recidivism rates, overwhelming officer caseloads, and the need to increase public safety. TRACKtech has created and developed an evidence-based, data-driven, mobile platform that offers comprehensive rehabilitation and compliance monitoring capabilities. This allows for individuals to have easier communication with their officers, access to a wide variety of resources, and help to keep them on the right track to reduce their chances of recidivating. Utilizing the TRACKphone also decreases the stigma of wearing an ankle monitor and can provide rehabilitation to individuals. Recidivism is costly for both the individual and the criminal justice system but there are solutions to reduce this at our fingertips.

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Community Supervision

The term parole has had a long-standing pessimistic view from people as many believe that individuals serving parole will reoffend. They also have the stigma that every criminal is violent and that people on parole should not be released as they are dangerous or criminal. According to an article by the Justice Center, The Council of State Governments, “with data to back them up, some states have started to challenge that way of thinking and turn pessimistic parole into “presumptive parole.”

For example, Vermont recently passed legislation that requires a growing approach in state corrections systems related to parole. They are using a form of reverse psychology where they assume parole-eligible people should be released unless there is a good reason not to. The reasoning behind this leads others that are incarcerated to participate in and finish required programming so that they are eligible for parole. Vermont’s legislation requires people to meet their minimum sentence requirement and key criteria related to good behavior while incarcerated, and then reviews parole candidates within 30 days of the individuals parole eligibility date.

For now, there are two stages of presumptive parole, first in 2021 where parole for people convicted of nonviolent offenses is established and then in 2023 parole will expand to include more types of eligible offenses. Vermont is just one of a few states that has been changing parole policies and redefining it to improve public safety, reduce corrections spending and reinvest in strategies to reduce recidivism. It is a step in the right direction regarding justice reform and helping individuals be less stigmatized when released. Most individuals on parole are working very hard to change their lives around and take advantage of their second chance. 

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Justice Reform

Those released from incarceration are faced with many struggles after their release. They hope for change and redemption, and fear that they will not be accepted back into society. These fears are compacted by the way they are portrayed in society. The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco intends to clean up the language used in the criminal justice system. The city and county of San Francisco received a proposal that would cause words such as “felon,” “offender,” “convict,” and “parolee” to be exchanged for more accepting language that does not emphasize the objectification of people, and focuses on more neutral and positive ways to describe these individuals.

Instances of more acceptable language is “returning resident” or “formerly imprisoned/incarcerated person”. Instead of calling someone a “parolee” they would be called a “supervised individual.” A “young offender” or “delinquent” would be described as a “young individual affected by the judicial system.”

With one in every five Californians having a criminal record, this change of language can make a drastic difference. There is a stigma attached to such language that can be incredibly dehumanizing. They want to return to their families and contribute to their communities, but are facing so many barriers hindering their rehabilitation. The Board of Supervisors believes wording with negative connotations should not be one of those barriers. The proposal stresses that “Language shapes the ideas, perceptions, beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals, societies and governments. People-first language places the individual before the criminal record by using neutral, objective, and non-pejorative language.”

The Sentencing Commission, the Reentry Council of the Bay Area, and the Youth Commission of San Francisco – a group of 17 youths aged 12 to 23 – passed resolutions supporting the altered language. However, the proposal has not yet been signed by Mayor London Breed.

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