Recidivism is a 10-letter word. When you first hear the word, it sounds like a disease. We know it is not a medical term, but it is a disease affecting our society. Dictionary.com defines recidivism as “repeated or habitual relapse, as into crime.”
A 2011 study released by the Pew Center on the United States concluded the nation’s recidivism rate had only marginally improved, even as spending on corrections facilities has increased to about $52 billion a year from about $30 billion a decade ago. More than 40 percent of former inmates commit crimes within three years of their release and are incarcerated again, according to this study.
Every few years there are a number of articles published moaning about our high recidivism rate. Government officials will run around in circles and then announce that committees will be formed to study the problem again. It is not rocket science. Prisons need the tools to rehabilitate and prepare returning citizens so that they do not become part of the annual recidivism rate. The prisons and jails need to treat the inmates as human beings and not as warehouse storage. Inmates cleaning streets will not reduce recidivism. There is a desperate need for practical education–How to find a job and how to interview for employment.
Those who argue that prisons are like private country clubs, are obviously uneducated about our prisons and jails or just like to believe in myths. Many prisons and jails are dangerous, overcrowded, and deteriorating. If we continue to side with the hardliners who believe only in punishment, then we will always have a high recidivism rate, overcrowded prisons, more crime victims, and an unhealthy society.