The Bigger Picture of Recidivism

Recidivism is a term that is frequently used in regards to incarcerated prisoners that have been rearrested. The term recidivism [ri-sid-uh-viz-uh'm] originates from the Latin recidiv, meaning to relapse, recur or fall.

In modern terms, recidivism means a repeated or habitual relapse, as into crime. The term often applies to released prisoners that after returning to the community, re-offend the same crime they were originally incarcerated for and are sent back to prison.

The question comes up-why would recidivism even occur? A prisoner does his/her required time in prison, is released, only to offend again and get reincarnated? Opinions vary widely on this subject.

Will longer sentences reduce recidivism? Those advocating longer sentences believe that while incarcerated, the offending prisoner can not reoffend while locked up. That would make sense in reducing recidivism just from the sheer power of incapacitation!

The more educational programs successfully completed for each six months confined, the lower the recidivism rate.

For those advocating shorter sentences, comes the thought that many offenders commit crimes due to physical addictions, and that treatment programs, literacy training and job training are more effective in reducing recidivism. These shorter sentence advocates also argue that the longer a prisoner is incarcerated, the more that prisoner learns and instills within themselves anti-social abnormal behavior that is limited to the subculture of prison life.

Prison educators share another point of view. A study by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons found: "The more educational programs successfully completed for each six months confined, the lower the recidivism rate." That is a bold statement as to the success of prison education and the reduction of recidivism!

Generally, prison education is provided by either vocational training or academic training. Academic training not only provides the prisoner with skills necessary to function in a normal society, but also increases their self-confidence and self-worth. Many prisoners require months of remedial academic training before they are able to attend more advanced educational classes.
Vocational training, along with academic education, is vital for the prisoner to learn useful "real world" skills to be applied in the outside world. Many vocational training courses offered are hands-on courses, such as computer programming or carpentry. Many prisoners have the option of enrolling in vocational correspondence education. These may include, legal studies, religious studies, journalism, marketing and much more.

We strongly believe that the key to reducing recidivism is prison education. Prison education also improves behavior, greatly increases a prisoners employment prospects and create a more balanced human being. What is needed is modern, advanced, innovative and current education philosophies. The world is rapidly changing and incarcerated prisoners need the extra edge of staying current with educational techniques. There are far too many success stories available to dispute the fact that prison education can greatly reduce recidivism.

Education is key.