An article was posted on CNN.com yesterday revealing that 4 in 10 prisoners return to prison within three years of being released. Despite state increased state spending in improving prisons, this fact has not changed in the past 30 years.
The article does note a few successful strategies in reducing recidivism:
“GPS systems that monitor the whereabouts of offenders and help enforce curfews; and automated kiosks, which allow offenders to check in with probation authorities without having to take time off from work or other responsibilities…Other strategies, such as post-release treatment and supervision based on risk assessments, also can lead to greater reductions in recidivism rates, the report said.”
But are these really success stories? Upon release from prison, the government is effectively re-incarcerating ex-felons within a realm of supposed “freedom” due to their inattentive and myopic approach to prisoner rehabilitation. Personally, with the despicable way prisoners are treated during their sentencing and after being released, I am surprised that only 4 in 10 return to prison instead of 9 or 10 out of 10.
The primary reason that a majority of prisoners end up locked up is because they are products of their environments. Too many have come from poor families and circumstances leading to a lack of education and a dangerous life on the streets. With little money and help from no one, breaking the law is often the only outlet these kids or adults have for survival. So they go to prison, do their time, and are spit back out into the “real world” with their old ways and a new detail on their record. With the word “felon” inscribed on their resumes, it is nearly impossible to get jobs, buy a house, or live amongst their peers. How could we expect them not to return to prison when we have set up an environment that sends a message to ex-felons that they will always be felons in our eyes, and the only place they will ever belong is behind bars?
We can’t. I truly believe that the only reasonable way to allow prisoners to be responsible for their own actions and circumstances after incarceration is to provide them with higher education during their duration of imprisonment. In 1994, the U.S. Congress abolished Pell grants for prisoners as a part of a get-tough-on-crime plot. Little did the government realize (or care) that the removal of this grant has sent thousands of uneducated ex-felons back on the streets with nowhere to go besides outside of the law. The way to reduce the offender recidivism rate across the globe is through education. Denying prisoners’ rights to education ultimately results in punishing the entire country by increasing crime rates.
(Photo by pelgrim2007 via Flickr)