Recidivism: Psychological Sociological, And Economical Factors

            One important study in the field of criminology is that of recidivism.  Once recidivism is explored is explored and well understood, it may be possible to reduce the crime rate in certain scenerarios.  When researching recidivism, it is pertinent to look at all factors that may be of influence to the offender.   This paper will take a thorough look into psychological, sociological, and economicalfactors that may play a role in repeat offenders.  Once knowledge is gained regarding common psychological, sociological, and economical issues that trigger repeat offenders, those issues can beaddressed and the person can be rehabilitated after the first offense so that he or she does not continue circulating through the system.

            Before exploring what causes recidivism, it is important to understand the definition of Recidivism.  The word recidivism, according to the Meriam Webster, means “a tendency to Relapse into criminal behavior” (Webster).  Recidivism is more common in certain crimes such as property offenders and drug criminals.  The study of repeat offenders has been a major issue in hopes of reducing crime committed by individuals who have previously been involved in the judicial system.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics “67.5% of prisoners released in 1994 were arrested within three years, an increase over the 62.5% found for those released in 1983.”Even though rearrest rates increase for property and drug offenders, the rearrest for violent offendersremained “relatively stable” (BJS).

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“The 1994 recidivism study estimated that within 3 years 51.8% of prisoners

                        released during the year were back in prison either because of a new crime for

            which they received another prison sentence, or because of a technical violation

                        of their parole. This rate was not calculated in the 1983 study” (BJS).

            According to the Organized Crime Digest in 2006 “fifty-six percent of the violent felons convicted in the seventy-five most populous counties from 1990 through 2002 had a prior conviction” (56% of violent felons are repeat offenders).  Having this large amount of repeat ofenders is a major Issue facing criminal justice professionals. This large amount of repeat offenders clearly shows that all aspects of the criminals life needs  to be evaluated and attempt to rehabilitate the offenderbefore letting them merge back into society. As the judicial system continues to delve into the study of recidivism the  sexual offenders  are treated with caution.  Acording to Ryan King, researcher at “The Sentencing Project’ The corrections system is clearly being very cautious About who is being released from prison for sex offenses. It’s a very Significant concern with the public (King).

            One of the first things that should be explored with criminals upon their first offense is the stability of the offender’s psychological state.  J. Steven Lamberti, M.D. published “Understanding and Preventing Criminal Recidivism Among Adults with Psychotic Disorders.” Lamberti begins the article by writing,

                        The high prevelance of adults with psychotic disorders in the criminal justice

                        System had received much attention recently, but our understanding of this

                        Problem is marked by diverging opinions.  Mental  Health Professionals point

                        To deinstitutionalization and our fragmented mental health system as primary

                        causes.   Criminologists minimize the role of mental  illness and contend that

                        persons with and without mental illness are arrested for the same reasons.

                        Meanwhile, practice guidelines offer little guidance to clinicians about how to

                        Address the problem” (Lamberti).

The majority of criminals posess some sort of mental illness. There must be a great working relationship between mental health professionals and criminologists. Often times a psychologic problem has not previously been diagnosed for different reasons.  Most criminals have not  had access to a mental health professional until they find themselves in prison.  Because mental health professionals are not always accessible, “patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders are unlikelu to receive adequate treatment within correctional facilities” (Lamberti).  The Department of Justice shows that inmates that have been diagnosed with a mental illness, only receive medication to treat their disorder (Ditton).  While criminals are in custory, their mental health should be carefully studied, diagnosed, and treated. If the criminal’s psychological disorders can be treated with therapy and/or medication, sucesfully rehabilitating them may be much easier.

            Because mental health has become such a presing issue in the courts, mental health courts have been formed. The goals of mental health courts include:

“To improve public safety by reducing criminal recidivism; to improve the quality of life of people with mental illnesses and increase their participation in effective treatments; and to reduce court-and-corrections-related costs through administrative to incarceration” (Almquist and Dodd).

Policymakers and practioners have partnered to address the issue of psychological disorders amont the incarcerated.  Both recognized a great opportunity to address and rehabilitate the psychological problems.  Not only will mental health courts help these offenders return to society as a productive citizen, but it will also help with the costs involved to keep them in prison or another type of institution. Upon the partnership of policymakers and practioners, Menetal Health courts has been one of the most popular outcomes.  The mental health court “combines court supervision with community based treatment services, usually in lieu of a jail or prison sentence” (Almquist et al). If a mental illness plays a major role in the repeat ofender, there is a good chance he or she will be better served through a mental health court. The offender has previously been in the system and obviously was not completely rehabilitated rather they commit the same type or crime or a totally different crime. If a serious psychological disorder, such as schizophrenia or depression, is diagnosed that person may not be best served by being incarcerated. With the implement of mental health courts, the options of retribution as well as rehabilitation are increased.  According to Mental Health Courts: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice,

“Mental health courts are more effective than the traditional court system and jails at connecting participants with mental health treatment services. Over time, mental health courts have the potential to save money through reduced recidivism and the associated jail and court costs that are avoided, and also through decreased use of the most expensive treatment options, such as inpatient care” (Almquist, et al).

            Once the people studying mental health courts research a bit more who is best served by this type of court, the court can be improved up and perfected upon. In 2006, eighty-seven mental health courts only acepted offenders convicted of misdemeanor crimes.  Ten percent of the mental health courts accepted only those convicted of felonies while fifty percent accepted offenders convicted of both felonies and misdemeanors.  Those organizing the mental health courts recognize the importance of diagnosing mental disorders and treating thos disorders in hopes to decrease the percentage of recidivism.

            While mental health courts are in place, it is criminal recidivism as it pertains to the adult psychotic offender.  “Cognitive behavioral therapy reduces recidivism in both juvenile and adults” (Clark, 22). There are mental health professionals available to employees within the judicial system and within the prison, but in order for the best results in reducing recidivism, the criminologist needs to be aware of causes.  “In order to develop effective prevention strategies, it is necessary to understand why adults with psychotic disorders enter the criminal justice system” (Lamberti 36).  Many time a fragmented mental health system is blamed on psychotic adults entering the system.  However, this can not be the only case as not all adults with serious psychological disorders become criminals (39). When researchers have studied criminal recidivism, they have found that while a psychological disorder may be present and play a role in the offender comitting a crime, often psychosis is not the only deciding factor.

            In addition to the psychological state of the repeat offender, it is also prevelant to explore the sociological past of the criminals.  “The prevelance of antisocial personality disorder is significantly higher among adults with schizophrenia than in the general population” (Lamberti, 44).  During 1981 and 1982 the Minneapolis Police Department performed a study to determine the effect of offenders repeating a criminal act of some sort. The research showed that recidivism increased among those that did not conform to society’s norms. (Shermen and Berk, 1984).  When people are raised without the respect of what society considers to be normal, such as mariage and employment, they are at a higher risk to comit a crime during their life. Without a normal sociological upbringing, the lines between right and wrong become intertwined. Once the experiment conducted by the Minneapolis Police Department culminated, Sherman stated, “If we ask whether arrest influences the subsequent violence of those arrested, the answer is that, in general, it depends on the arrested person’s stake in conformity. Arrested persons who lacked a stake in conformity were significantly more likely to have a repeat offense (686).

            There is more in the realm of sociology to be explored than simply non-conformity. It is also important to lok at shat “group” of citizens are committing the crimes and the repeat offenses.  When theories and research revolving around “chronic offenders”, the question was raised:  is it a small amount of the population committing crimes or is it a large amount of one time offenders?  Robert Tillman discovered that, “recent longitudinal studies of criminal careers have drawn attention to the existence of what are referred to as ‘chronic offenders’ or ‘career criminals’ who appear to contribute disproportionately to the crime rate’ (561). Since non-conformity to socio-norms among offenders and the fact that repeat offenders are contributing largely to the crime rate, it would be beneficial to incorporate employment into some offenders rehabilitation.  Sociologists have explored “turning points” in peoples’ lives, including the lives of repeat offenders.  During that research, come concludede things such as employment made for a turning point. With employment, the offender begins to feel important as well as a contributing factor to society (Uggen 529).

            Along with psychological and sociological disorders, the offenders current economic state plays a huge role in whether or not the offender will commit a criminal act once again.  When offenders are able to find and maintain employment, their rate of repeating criminal behavior is reduced greatly (Myers 1981). When the economy is thriving and jobs are plentiful, offenders are able to find work.  Emploument keeps them busy, and they do not have free time on their hands to commit crimes.  A good economy also means plenty of money is circulating; therefore, there is not much need to steal from another (Boland 126).

            Psychological disorders paired with substance abuse and/or sociological issues are common factors among repeat offenders.  The economy also plays a role somewhat when things are bad.  Until rehabilitation is more individualized and focused more so on the actual treatment of the offender, the recidivism rate will not increase.  Treatment plans need to be personalized and deal with the mental disorders as well as showing the importance of conforming to society.  Criminologists should be more concerned with healing the offender and find what keps them our of trouble, rather than retribution.


            This paper explores why psychology, sociology, and economic wel being of the community all play a role in a criminal’s offenses. Often psychological disorders are paired with non-conformity in a bad economical state.  When all three mix, the tendency for the criminal to repeat the behavior is raised.  With a partnership among criminologists, psychologists, and sociologists, plans can be developed to individually treat and rehabilitate each offender.


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Recidivism: Psychological Sociological, And Economical Factors. (2016, Nov 15). Retrieved from