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Prison Recidivism Impacts Society

The purpose of this paper is to examine how prison recidivism impacts our society and why there is an enormous disparity between rehabilitation and incarceration rates. Prisons are constantly being constructed and are filled to capacity. Prisons simply do not eliminate crime and criminal behavior. In fact, In the United States, in many instances, the recidivism rate is quite high, and the costs for taxpayers are billions of dollars.

The problem under investigation focuses on the effectiveness of prison reform and does it provide alternative methods for men incarcerated, secondly understanding the disparities of recidivism within the criminal justice system. The challenge is does prison reform improve the person upon becoming incarcerated and does alternative prison programs transform an individual?

What causes the problem of recidivism within the criminal justice system and how does prison reform prepares individuals to return to society? Many males are incarcerated at a higher rate mainly due to a lack of male presence in the home African Americans are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and rarely experience the same level of rehabilitation that their Caucasian counterparts do. African Americans have consistently been incarcerated ever since Emancipation without exception. The failure of Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the less than admiral efforts of the civil rights movement still see African Americans with the same deficits as they had post slavery.

African Americans continue to lag behind all other ethnic groups in education, employment, vocational opportunities, and marriage. With the advent of the “War on Drugs” African Americans are incarcerated at 51 percent, which is two percent above the national average. In New Jersey, African American men comprise 63 % percent of the prison population two percent more than African American women. This disparity is directly attributable to attitude prejudice and institutional racism, both remnants of slavery.

Allport as cited by Plantz (1988) poses it that prejudice is an attitude that may or may not be exhibited in overt hostility. Combined with power it has the added ability to discriminate or deny individuals or groups of people equality of treatment. This is especially salient in the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system has traditionally been and continues to be a Caucasian owned and operated business. The power elite is Caucasian, the prosecutors and judges are primarily members of the dominant society, and it is not until an inmate is incarcerated that he or she meets someone that looks like him or her. However, the department of corrections official is charged with maintaining order and is not in a position to establish meaningful relationships.

Who is affected? African Americans being incarcerated have affected the immediate families. When fathers and/or mothers get arrested based on the nature of the crime, the families become ostracized by the community and the media based on a rush to judgment. Other children that attend the same schools ridicule our children. Many children suffer numerous negative reactions including anger, depression, low self-esteem, and a decline in school performance.

Another factor contributing to this problem are communities without alternative programming for at risk youth of color. Some programs previously available to inner city children were recreation centers, summer league tournaments, and boy scouts. These programs allowed children to participate in positive environments, provided mentoring and modeling of positive behaviors to African American males. Without intervention, this issue of Black Male incarceration and recidivism is not only devastating for the offender, but also for future generations and the Black community at large.
The target population is Newark, New Jersey. The target population is 13 to 25 year old African American males with a history of recidivism within the criminal justice system. The major challenges facing this population, within the targeted Newark city, area. In addition, unemployment and the lack of adequate income to meet an individual’s basic needs challenge criminally involved men of color. One of the antecedents of the problem is the racial disparities within the African male population in the criminal justice system at all stages; starting from the arrest and proceeding through imprisonment and parole. Substantial racial and ethnic disparities are found in virtually all jurisdictions in the United States. Mauer (2000) reports that in 1930, the inmate population in this country was 77% white and 22% African American. In 1986, the percentage was 40% white and 45% Black. Today African American males are being incarcerated at an extremely higher rate. Visher and Travis (2003) reports that trends project that within five years, three out of every ten African American males will spend time in prison, while these disparities have continued for many years, in many respects they have been more severe in recent years despite considerable social and economic gains African Americans have made.

According to Bridges and Crutchfield (1988) for many years, there have been concerns about racial disparity and recidivism. Their findings showed that African American males are 11 times more likely to be imprisoned, then Caucasians. Their research has shown that among African Americans crime rates and convictions are at a higher rate, and that these disparities have been present for years. According to Cannon (2000) in 1982, African Americans were just 12 percent of the population, but accounted for 48 percent of the prison population.

Furthermore, many single African American mothers are raising their children without the support of the father. In addition, it is clear that recidivism, substance abuse, and the single-family household especially where a positive African American male role model is not present in the house. Based on the unavailability of positive role models there are a society of African American young men who are incarcerated at an alarming rate, pregnancy in particularly with younger women and drug abuse along with domestic violence are also high in this segment of the population rate.

Positive role models are needed in both the leaders and in the communities in order to break the cycle. Alternatives and solutions that are realistic must be put into action and a vision with a plan must be mapped out, the behavior that is spoken is slave mentality even though; we are in the present day (Gentry, 2003). If people are kept dependent and inferior, they will perish and most of all use race or color as a distraction, and have people of the same race turning on each other. True discrimination is when people of the same races look at themselves as being better than or different from on the same ship.

Who has been affected relates to the racial bias against African American males within the criminal justice system. The African American males incarcerated within the criminal justice system have affected our families. According to the Gale Group (2003), some of the long-term effects are neighborhood order, family structure, and child development. In examining African American children, they are acting out at home and within the school systems. The behavioral problems have occurred as a result because of the abandonment of their parent’s fathers and mother’s presence within the family structure. African American men and women have been impacted the family structure and has manifested itself through self-hatred. This is connected to the “Willie Lynch Law” speech several hundred years ago.

According to Amnesty International (2000), more than one million children have incarcerated parents. Children are eight times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system if one parent is incarcerated than those children without parental incarceration are. Fifty percent of children involved in the juvenile justice system have parents who are also incarcerated. Children of the incarcerated are uprooted from their homes, schools, and routine when they enter foster care. Many children suffer somatic complaints rooted in anxiety about their parent’s imprisonment and their childish beliefs about their responsibility for it. Society pays a price for these children because they will not become productive citizen and future talent is lost to the vicious cycle of anger, addiction, and incarceration.

Barras (2002) stated in 1960, what has been found are children living without fathers in the home, was less than ten million; some of the barriers and challenges today that number is at twenty-four million. More than sixty percent of African American male children live in homes without fathers. Furthermore, “men in general and fathers in particular, are increasingly viewed as not required to family-either expendable or part of the problem” (p. 39). These are some of the ways African American communities are impacted by the problem. From the research done, it appears that African American men have affected the family structure.

Teyber and Hoffman (2000) stated the mother is usually the primary caretaker before the divorce, and as a rule children live with her afterwards. As a result, children tend to be closer to their mothers. When subtly pressured to choose between their parents, most children emotional allegiance goes to their mothers. In this way, the father continuing involvement requires, in effect, his former wife’s permission. Feeling powerless and controlled in this situation, fathers simply depart, abandoning parenting altogether.
Another aspect of the problem regarding African Americans in their challenges within the family dynamics centered on fatherless ness. Barras (2002) stated it has taken years to admit that my fatherless ness has stamped me as indelibly as a mother’s love. In addition, others are beginning to understand the invaluable role father’s play. As we approach another father’s Day, we salute who are with their families, and we continue the search for the missing the health and happiness of millions of young lives depend on their return. As a child of the father needed in the life of a confused and abused toddler was unavailable. The impact of abandonment can be very traumatic and end leaves emotional scares. The healing needed to fully recover can be a life long process. Another faucet that eliminates blacks and sends them back into the system is that a possible factor contributing to recidivism is multigenerational incarceration, which includes a history of patriarchal legal system involvement. Without role models, modeling education goals and other positive behaviors, current inmates emulate the behaviors of their fathers (who were offenders) who have repeated the behaviors modeled for them, from their father.
Boys are deeply influenced by behaviors modeled for them during their formative years, especially those behaviors demonstrated by fathers, uncles, or other important male role models. Almost half-of all African American males without high school diplomas have prison records by the age of thirty. Education is the key that unlocks closed opportunities and without education, African American males are destined to repeat the vicious cycle.
According to Rosenthal and Flavin (2003), the United States Department of justice reports that nearly half of all persons incarcerated in State Prisons for drug convictions have not completed high school or earned their G.E.D. This supports that possible solutions should focus on education and family counseling. Education is the key that unlocks closed opportunities and without education, African American males are destined to repeat the vicious cycle.

The lack of male presence and leadership in the home are other causal factors of the increased rate of incarceration and recidivism among African American males. This particular challenge has manifested itself through the aforementioned generational pattern handed down from the grandfather to the grandson. The lack of connection between the older and younger generations impedes the filtering of historical and new information and old data has a comfortable familiar sound. Many families have become accustomed to unhealthy behaviors because these dynamics are normal for them and do not seem out of place. Mauer (2000) noted one of the potential problems with African American males and incarceration focuses on being black and poor, in the criminal justice system in America.

Another reason and a desperate challenge for male ex-offenders, is securing employment, and enduring prejudice in applying for a job. Many employers are hesitant or unwilling to hire ex-convicts and parolees, because of their criminal background (Polk, 1997). Most employers ask applicants “have you ever been arrested” if the answer is “yes” then the applicant more often than not does not get the job.

Another factor contributing to this problem are communities without alternative programming for at risk youth of color, and that does have a tendency to produce a high rate of recidivism in African American males begins with unemployment challenges, which is one of the major challenges that African American males experience along with prejudice when applying for a job. Many employers are hesitant and/or unwilling to hire ex-convicts and parolees, because of their criminal background. Most employers ask applicants have you been arrested if you answer “Yes” you are most likely denied. Unfortunately this goes back to the question of how do I provide for my family and the only thing that comes to their minds is what does surviving mean for my family. It means instant gratification!

The goal is to “repair” the deficiencies in the individual and return them as productive members of society. Education, work skills, deferred gratification, treating others with respect, and self-discipline is stressed. Younger criminals who have committed fewer and less severe crimes are most likely to be successfully reformed. One criticism of this is criminals are rewarded with training and other items which would not have been available to them had they not committed a crime. However, it must be noted that criminals or potential criminals who do not have access to such educational resources are only acting in their best interests by gaining access to these prisons; if a prison is successful at providing resources to individuals who were unable to get these resources through “acceptable” channels, then perhaps what would be needed, in the implementation of such models, is societal reform. Another positive way to cut down recidivism is to begin with father’s educating their sons, and with men to modeling positive behavior. Men, as a result of incarceration abandon their children and are not involved in their day-to-day lives. If men are going to make a difference, it first starts within. Men must be an example for their sons and model positive behaviors. Unfortunately, some men are poor examples for their sons and model inappropriate behavior. The results are gangs and criminal activity. In addition to gang activity this is all that is taught in some families who are members of gangs, criminal behavior is all that they know and as far as surviving all they know is how to take from others and possibly harm or kill them in return. In addition, it is clear that recidivism, substance abuse, and the single-family household especially where a positive male role model is not present in the house. Based on the unavailability of positive role models there are a society of young men and women who are incarcerated at an alarming rate, pregnancy in particularly with younger women and drug abuse along with domestic violence are also high in this segment of the population rate. Some of the risk factors that have culturally important that has contributed to the African American male

Hoffman and Teyber (2002) purport that the divorce rate soars to 85% when the father is incarcerated, many times incarcerated fathers have not nurtured their sons, and the young males require more guidance and direction. In addition, these sons of inmates need positive role models, in order to avoid those circumstances and dynamics, which led to their father’s criminal justice involvement. Many times when African American male inmates are released, they attempt to make up for their past absence by trying to buy the affection and love from their children through gifts and money. Initially the instant gratification feels good, but is short lived and does not sustain the relationship. The needed factors for developing a relationship have been stolen from them via incarceration. Other causes of recidivism are a higher rate of African males in my opinion is that it is of unemployment many times the jobs are not available. In addition, we as a people at has become frustrated and turn to drugs or because of being abused, or drug dealing gs as means of financial income. They often justify their behavior for selling drugs to support their families by paying rent and food. It is slavery at the highest level and some are not educated enough to recognize what we are creating within our community.

Hoffman and Teyber (2002) confirm that many fathers recognize, and welcome, their continuing responsibility to care for their children following divorce. Yet without concerted efforts such as these, most divorced fathers simply will not take on an effective parenting role on their own. The solution to the problem begins with working together, and insuring that all children can have both a mother and father in the aftermath of divorce.
According to Webster Dictionary, poverty is defined as the lack of sufficient income and ability to meet environmental needs to support one’s lifestyle. Poverty along with other social factors makes it difficult to support one’s self or ones family, and couple that with incarceration, it is doubly difficult. Greene (2002) defines the term concentrated poverty as the confinement of the poor to a subset community location, to resist their break up and scatter in various directions across all parts of the inner city. Greene argues that the “most harmful” outcome of spatial concentration is the isolation of poor people within the community and economical and social mainstream. “Isolation is seen as a consequence of concentration because the poor are confined to neighborhoods from which the non-poor are absent or almost absent” (p. 23).
population. McCarthy and Kompalle (2001) reported about a need for additional research in the areas of recidivism and retention as it relates to all kinds of disciplinary sanctions.

The problem with poor education begins at home with the parents. Our children need to see examples of successful parents who have obtained an education and the reward and benefits are manifested in the lives of the family members. Presently many parents are pursuing advanced education. As parents, it is having a positive impact on the lives of children. It has a great affect on the entire household and gives children a reference point.

The solutions to unemployment in African American males begin with first, staying out of prison. Secondly, salary and wages available to the ex-offender is not livable, add to that fines and child support, and there is nothing left to live on. Educational deficits have to be addressed in order to make a livable wage and be gainfully employed. Another solution to employment starts with remaining drug free. Many African American males participate in drug and alcohol use and cannot pass an initial drug test.

It is very clear that society has many challenges and it would appear that the system is almost designed to produce a conditioned response of conformability in an underachieving state of mind both qualitative and quantitative methods must be employed to provide practitioners with the information needed to design effective sanctions assess current practice.

McCarthy and Kompalle (2001) examined the effect of active and passive judicial sanctions on recidivism and retention. One area that may be important to some African American men is substance use. This was examined by Valdez and Kaplan (2003) defined some of the barriers by comparison of alcohol and drug suggests that the relationship between substance abuse and violence is more complex than earlier surmised, yet there are comparatively few studies that focus on the relationship between alcohol, drugs and violence under different social conditions. In addition, some of the research and trends that are focused on blacks had higher levels of frequent alcohol use and testing positive for drugs, they had lower levels of aggressive crimes.

Another finding focused on relapse process and cognitive functioning while in the treatment process. Allsop, Saunders, and Phillips (2000) conducted a study to investigate factors hypothesized to influence the relapse process, with a focus on the role of self-efficacy, alcohol dependence, and cognitive functioning. The study was a controlled trial of a relapse prevention program. Clients were assessed before entering program and following the conclusion of treatment at six and twelve months. The results of the study showed an improvement of prevention skills and coping with the depressive state that comes with most recovering persons early in their recovery. This article shows the importance of education to defend against the disease of addition with relapse prevention being one of the tools.

Donovan (2003) states that the rate of relapse associated with alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs have been estimated to be as high as 60% and appear to be relatively comparable across substances, suggesting some commonalities with respects to the dynamics of relapse. Drug and alcohol problems have been chronicled within the African American male population. Fifty percent of convicted jail inmates were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense, down from 59% in 1996. Three out of every four convicted jail inmates were alcohol and drugs involved at the time of the offense. Alcohol use at the time of the offense dropped from 41% (in 1996) to 35%, while drug use dropped from 35% to 29%. Zanis, Mulvaney, Coviello, Alterman, Savitz, and Thompson (2003) conducting naturalistic study involving 569 offenders who had history of substance abuse or dependence prior to incarceration, and were approved for early parole to a community-based substance abuse treatment facility. The study showed that 24 months following the release into the community new crimes were committed which is a negative outcome. Results found that 22% of the offenders paroled to a substance abuse facility were convicted of new crime compared to 34% of offenders paroled directly into the community. The article suggests that some type of intervention must be provided before release into the community, with the potential to reduce recidivism.

Some of the tools utilized to combat the challenges of substance abuse and recidivism within the criminal justice system began with the implementation of Moral Recognition Therapy (Little, 2000). MRT when explained is a form correctional therapy focused on anti-social behavioral disorders. The results of MRT were positive by reducing recidivism rates with probationers, parolees, and drug court participants. This was especially effective with parolees and probationers who have demonstrated resistant behavior.

Upon completion of the MRT some of the concerns focus around risk factors as predictors of re-incarceration following prison substance abuse treatment. The findings confirmed risk factors predict recidivism three years post prison and that positive treatment effects are more likely to be found among the higher risk participants. This research makes a point that the longer a prisoner is incarcerated the better the chances of him or her not returning to the system. This makes the point by examining one’s morals and values because persons in prison for a longer period have a much greater time span to reevaluate themselves (Wexler, Melnick, & Cao, 2004).

By subjecting prisoners to harsh conditions, authorities hope to convince them to avoid future criminal behavior and to exemplify for others the rewards for avoiding such behavior; that is, the fear of punishment will win over whatever pleasure the illegal activity might bring. The deterrence model frequently goes far beyond an eye for an eye, exacting a more severe punishment than would seem to be indicated by the crime.

The goal here is for the individual to find God. Religious study and (frequently) isolation are stressed. While it is felt that an individual who has been saved will no longer commit crimes, the purely religious goal of providing as many souls as possible for God also applies. Note that this model often clashes with secular societies, especially those with a separation of Church and State philosophy, such as the United States.

According to the New York Post, 2003 “although these may very well increase long term costs to the prison system and society due to recidivism, the ultimate way to reduce immediate costs is to eliminate prisons entirely and use fines, community service, and other sanctions (like the loss of a driver’s license or the right to vote). Note that this goal conflicts with most of the other goals for criminal justice systems. For example, if a criminal is treated well and released early, she/he is not likely to be deterred from future crimes.”

Poor societies, which lack the resources to imprison criminals for years, frequently use execution in place of imprisonment, for severe crimes. Less severe crimes, such as theft, might be dealt with by less severe physical means, such as amputation of the hands.” When long term imprisonment is used in such societies, it may be a virtual death sentence, as the lack of food, sanitation, and medical care causes widespread disease and death, in such prisons.” Some of the goals of criminal justice are compatible with one another, while others are in conflict.

Prison reform Huffman v. Georgia (1972) and Gregg v. Georgia (1976) findings have led to many opposing dictates in regards capital punishment. Among other cases, they are the basis of how prisoners are treated by the justice system, especially those awaiting execution on death row. However, these opinions have extended to treatment of all incarcerated prisoners; mostly related to medical treatment of prisoners has not helped.

I now have the privilege of working within the prison system and have counseled several inmates/residents, and have had the privilege of dealing with all types of individuals; I am not implying that all prisoners deserve a chance to be back in society, because some of them are just down right terrifying. I do believe that some of the inmates will eventually reform but most prison inmates, are some of the most unstable people in our society, the majority of them need to be nurtured and should have been taught how to first love themselves. Most inmates have had too little or no discipline or too much, come from broken homes, and no self-esteem. They are very insecure and are at war with themselves as well as with society. Most inmates did not learn moral values or learn to follow everyday norms, when most lawbreakers are labeled criminals they enter the phase of secondary deviance. They will admit they are criminals or believe it when they enter the phase of secondary deviance.

I also believe that if we want to rehabilitate criminals we must do more than just send them to prison. For instance, we could give them a chance to acquire job skills; which will improve the chances that inmates will become productive citizens upon release. The programs must aim to change those who want to change. Those who are taught to produce useful goods and to be productive are likely to develop the self-esteem essential to a normal, integrated personality. This kind of program would provide skills and habits and replace the sense of hopelessness that many inmates’ practice.

In conclusion, I have utilized different aspects of the problem of African males and recidivism challenges within the criminal justice system. Though we are fully equipped and capable of conducting our lives freely, we have become so accustomed to giving our lives over to other influences that we do not realize we have the necessary tools. We run from the opportunity to exercise influences over our own lives. It never cease to amaze me that the United States now imprisons over a million Americans and keeps another four million under “correctional control” (in jails and on probation or parole).

This is supposed to be the land of the free; there is an astonishing numbers of people that are being kept in cages. There is so much information in reference to this paper I would be writing forever.


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