Recidivism - Its Causes and Cure

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Recidivism - Its Causes and Cure by John Dewar Gleissner For many decades, the U.S. recidivism rate - the rate at which released prisoners return to prison or get convicted again - has hovered around two-thirds or 70%. In other words, our correctional methods don't rehabilitate very well. A wise prison warden in 1912 set forth the requirements of a good prison system, but our society has not listened to his advice. Instead, prisoners get worse over time by learning sick prison values, the process of "prisonization." The gang culture thrives in prison, sometimes recruiting new members there or simply continuing previous gang membership. Our prisoners do not always receive drug rehabilitation or psychiatric counseling and only a minority learns valuable trades or skills or obtains a GED in prison. The mentally ill should be in mental institutions, not prisons; 16% of prisoners have significant mental problems. Inactivity and boredom take a toll, punctuated by violence and sometimes rape. Responsible conduct is not encouraged; we do not trust our prisoners to act responsibly. Their conduct in prison is judged by whether they have obeyed prison rules, not whether they are capable of navigating in the outside world. Because U.S. laws inhibit and discourage prison industries, relatively few convicts work productively while behind bars. In the federal and many state systems, determinate sentences release prisoners on a set date whether they are ready for the free world outside or not. After release, ex-cons are denied food stamps, welfare benefits, public housing, student loans and most jobs, and they are perceived as poor marriage, employment, housing and business prospects. Prisoners lose contact with family and friends, especially during longer sentences, and invariably find that things have changed while they were gone. Recidivism will never disappear. There is no

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