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What Factors Affect Recidivism Rates?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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Recidivism rates are primarily affected by the lack of employment opportunities for ex-convicts. Another reason for the large number of repeat offenders is that many ex-criminals return to crime-ridden environments, where they are subject to more pressure than they can bear. This is often aggravated by society's negative view of criminals, which motivates some to act according to stereotypes. In some instance, individuals have been out of society for such long periods of time that they lack the life skills to function responsibly in society.

A major factor of recidivism rates is the number of employment opportunities available to ex-convicts. Once individuals are released back into society, they have the same needs as everyone else. Their ability to provide for themselves and for their families is often hampered by their inability to obtain gainful employment. There are some jobs that their convictions may disqualify them from. In addition to that hurdle, employers commonly limit opportunity even further when they find out a person has a criminal record.

After people finish serving their sentences, they commonly return to the areas where they resided before they were convicted. In many cases, these are low-income, crime-ridden locations with limited opportunities, limited positive influence, and often a lot of encouragement to engage in illegal activities. For many people, the pressure of being in such an environment leads to unwise decisions, which contribute to escalating recidivism rates.

The criminal justice system is often blamed for perpetuating recidivism rates by failing to address peoples' needs. It has been found that large portions of the individuals in correctional facilities committed crimes due to addiction or mental illness. These are issues that tend to be inadequately addressed, if they are not completely ignored. As a result, incarceration is a superficial solution that does not help to address the underlying problems which commonly spur repetitive criminal behavior.

Society's attitudes toward convicted criminals also play a role in recidivism rates. There is often a significant amount of social penalizing that occurs even once a person has paid for his crime. Many people stereotype or pass judgment on convicted criminals, refusing to believe that criminals change and therefore maintaining distrustful attitudes. The impact is often extended to those close to an ex-convict, such as his children or intimate partner. This discouraging behavior often leads to a feeling of hopelessness that motivates a person to act as he is perceived.

Some people are incarcerated for such long periods that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to assimilate into society when they are released. Even if there were numerous opportunities, many individuals would not be able to take advantage of them. Consider, for example, a 19-year-old who receives a 30-year sentence. He will likely lack the necessary life skills to function when he is released at the age of 49.

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Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Mar 19, 2014

But, there is only so much that can be done in the juvenile justice system or the "adult" criminal one, either. A lot of criminals come from terrible households. The lack of parental involvement, control or etc. can mess up a kid to the point that he slips into criminal behavior. Sad, but true.

By Logicfest — On Mar 19, 2014

Honestly, a better juvenile justice system would help curb criminal behavior considerably. While there is a lot of talk about recidivism, it is fascinating to see how one can tell a kid is going bad by tracking him through the juvenile justice system. A lot of career criminals start out as troubled kids and simply graduate to more serious crimes as they get older.

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