Being reintroduced into the outside world and the re-socialization of newly freed criminal offenders has been a reoccurring setback in society. With the United States having recidivism rates upward of 69%, it is apparent that freed convicts are finding it hard readjusting and going back to their normal lives in society (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2008). Retribution, incapacitation, deter, and rehabilitate offenders, are all characteristics of the purpose of prison, but much of the research on recidivism rates criticize the idea that “prison works” (Dhami, 2006).
However, with offenders finding their way back into jails and prison within at least one year of being released, it is clear that the prison system is not providing inmates with the rehabilitation and therapy needed to function once they return to the outside world. In the past many studies have shown that inmates who take in vocational and therapy based programs are more successful with reintegration into everyday life upon their release. The combination of vocational programs with the use of counseling, health and fitness programs, transcendental meditation, academic programs and religious programs are they way to go.
These rehabilitative programs are usually based on the notion that criminal behavior in suspects is caused by some contributing factor such as a history of violence, psychological or mental disorders. Rehabilitation not Punitive Deterrence Why Rehabilitation Programs? Moreover, this assertion of these factors does not mean that some offenders make their own personal choices to break the law but rather it reasons that these personal choices are habitually caused by certain factors, which contribute to unlawful behavior.
Most of these programs are thus focused on the perspective, which is aimed to deal with criminal attributing behavior. For example, counseling programs could be aimed to focus on the behavior that led to the criminal offender committing the offense while educational programs could emphasis on how to modify criminal inducing behavior to positive non-criminal behavior. Correctional programs in prison facilities are therefore important in reducing the recurrence of criminal behavior as well as reducing recidivism among probationers and parolees. Rehabilitation rograms should be more readily implemented into prisons to reduce post recidivism since these programs are mostly focused on treating the criminal behavior of prisoners by eliminating completely the factors or circumstances that drive them to commit criminal acts. Efficacy of Rehabilitation Programs In general, rehabilitation programs have been effective in reducing recidivism among prison convicts since they are mostly focused on treating the criminal causing behavior of prisoners by eliminating completely the factors or circumstances that drive them to commit criminal acts.
Criminologists who conducted research on the effectiveness of rehabilitative programs such as educational, community based and transcendental programs noted that rehabilitative programs had a higher efficacy when they were oriented towards providing treatment to prison convicts so as to reduce recidivism. They noted that both the educational and transcendental rehabilitative programs were designed to provide prisoners with life skills that they could use to manage their criminal causing behavior as well as equip them with technical skills that would improve the quality of their lives.
Focuses of Rehabilitation Programs Rehab programs that are attentive on the beliefs of effective involvement are able to target the known influences of recidivism thereby necessitating change and also allowing the incorporation of reasoning or behavioral treatments to reinforce the behavior of the criminal offender by eliminating criminal thinking patterns. Ideologies of effective intervention guarantee that rehabilitative programs are able to take into account the varying personalities of offenders, which would affect their response to rehabilitative treatments.
Various rehabilitation programs such as vocational and academic education, community based programs; moral recognition therapy and behavioral treatment programs have proved to be effective in reducing recidivism among released convicts. These programs were effective in treating criminal offenders as they mostly focused on their behavior and the contributing factors that led to their criminal behavior.
These rehabilitative programs also utilized the principles of effective intervention, which include focusing treatment interventions on high-risk offenders, employing well-trained and sensitive staff and providing after care to offenders once they leave the rehabilitation program. Incarceration as a Deterrent to crime Current Efficacy of Incarceration as a Deterrent In the US the majority of criminals behind bars are repeat offenders who have committed new criminal offenses on their release from prison.
Rendering to statistics released by the US Department of Justice in 2001, the number of prisoners who were rearrested after being released from prison amounted to 279,400 out of the 635,000 prisoners released from prison in the same year. Prisoners that had the highest re-arrest rates were robbers with a rate of 70%, burglars with a rate of 74% and car thieves with a rate of 78%. These figures illustrated that more than half of prisoners released from prison were more than likely to return to prison for a completely new offense or a violation of their probation/parole (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002).
This increased rate of recidivism was mostly attributed to the fact that many correctional programs were now focused on deterring criminal offenders through punishments, beatings and other severe forms of punitive actions rather than correcting or rehabilitating their criminal behavior. Many criminologists and sociologists argued that such actions were less than likely to reduce the rates of recidivism as criminals would more than likely revert to their old behavior once they are released from prison.
The rates of recidivism would therefore continue to be high if correctional programs were focused on punishing and deterring criminal behavior. The Focus of Incarceration as a Deterrent Strategies such as boot camps for criminals sentenced for life, electronic monitoring of probationers and parolees have made it difficult to reform prison convicts as these methods are mostly based on deterrence rather than reform. Punitive justice is mostly the common theme in these programs as prisoners who experience recidivism are punished by being sent to solitary isolation or back to prison in the case of parolees who violate their parole.
Analyses of the various issues of why imprisonment as a deterrent does not work include the conflicting system goals and lack of resources, which are a necessity in correcting criminal-like behavior within correctional facilities. Bales and Piquero in their article emphasize the goals and objectives of various correctional facilities conflict with the goals that are needed to develop and implement correctional programs within the prison facility. “This conflict makes it difficult to determine what resources will be needed to design and develop either community based programs or educational programs” (Bales & Piquero, 2012).
There is also the aspect of role confusion where various law enforcement officers responsible for correctional programs are unable to determine what activities they are responsible for in rehabilitation programs. Inadequate Personnel The various law enforcement officers who are involved incarceration and include corrections or correctional officers, prison wardens and detention officers. Their primary role and responsibility is to ensure that prisoners have been supervised and their security has been guaranteed as they await court sentencing or as they carry out their jail terms.
They are also charged with maintaining order within the prison by enforcing disciplinary measures in the event there is a disturbance within the prison. The general demeanor of these law enforcers is usually authoritative, harsh, strict and intolerant which enables them to deal with prisoners. If these officers are therefore involved in rehabilitation programs, their primary role within the prison system will be in conflict with their role in rehabilitative programs.
While they are seen to be important in helping prisoners reform, correctional officers and other law enforcers working within the penal system and who are involved in rehabilitation programs contribute to the increasing rates of recidivism among criminal offenders in correctional facilities when they fail to reconcile their roles in rehabilitative programs. Current Rehabilitation Programs and Their Efficacy Counseling Programs As mentioned in the introductory part of the discussion, there are various rehabilitative programs that are used by correctional systems in the world to reform criminal offenders.
One of these programs is community-based rehabilitation programs which are mostly focused on providing restorative justice. Examples of community-based programs include probation, community service and parole programs which are designed to integrate prisoners into the society. Community based programs are designed to reduce the level of hostility, intolerance and resentment that exists between the various members of the society and the criminal offenders (Duwe & Clark, 2012). Community based programs allow prisoners to act in the right way before the eyes of the whole community.
They are generally seen as second chances for criminals as they enable them to commune with the whole society. With regards to criminal and law procedures, there are various provisions that allow the justice system to design sentences and convictions that are meant to rehabilitate and correct the behavior of criminals. Court sentences given to offenders usually incorporate aspects of community service and victim restitution so as to rehabilitate and reform the prisoner once they begin their prison sentence.
These sentences are usually handed out to criminals convicted of committing an offense against their society or community. While community service programs operated under the prison rehabilitation program are usually effective, court ordered community service programs usually serve as punitive rather than restorative justice. Criminals who are forced to participate in community service programs are less than likely to reform when compared to criminals who voluntarily participate in such programs.
Another program that is used in the rehabilitation of criminals is counseling where various prisoners meet with a counselor within the prison walls to talk about their emotions, feelings and behavior as well as the factors that led them to commit criminal offenses. Counseling is an important rehabilitative program as it provides an opportunity to the relevant people to ascertain whether there are any mental or physical disabilities that led the criminal offender to commit a crime. Many counseling sessions in rehabilitation programs address aspects such as anger management, drug abuse, crisis management and alcoholism.
Counseling has a higher efficacy rate in reducing recidivism when compared to community based programs as it deals with the treatment of criminal behavior (Visher & Travis, 2011). Some criminal court procedures include counseling as part of the sentence especially in the rehabilitation of criminals who are either psychologically or emotionally disturbed. These sessions are usually designed to get to the root of their criminal behavior and also to determine how this behavior can be rectified. Counseling when sed with mental health evaluation and treatment has been effective in reducing recidivism among prisoners who have been released from jail (Christy & Daniel, 2012). Health and fitness programs are other techniques that are used in rehabilitating criminals within the penal system. These programs provide physical fitness exercises to lower the stress levels of inmates as they complete their sentences in jail. The efficacy of this method in decreasing reoffending has however not been determined, as the amount of literature available on the subject has not provided any useful statistics that can point to whether this method is successful.
Also, most physical fitness programs in prisons are mostly designed to keep prisoners busy and away from any disruptive behavior within the prison. Cognitive Evaluations Mental health evaluation and treatment programs are rehabilitative programs that are designed to achieve some emotional balance in the prisoner by reducing behavior that causes them to over react to certain situations. According to Landenberger and Lipsey these programs are designed to balance the various reactions that an individual has to certain situations such as confrontations, violence and threats.
The mental health of prisoners is usually evaluated under this method to ensure that they are of a stable condition once they are released from prison. Criminal court procedures for some cases usually advocate for criminals who have psychological and mental problems to undergo mental health evaluation in psychiatric facilities and mental wards. This evaluation is important in diagnosing the specific mental capacity of the prisoner as well as determining whether they have mental health problems, which caused them to commit the offense in the first place (Landenberger & Lipsey, 2005).
Faith Based With respects to religious programs, the effectiveness of this type of rehabilitative program is similar to that of physical fitness as most religious programs incorporated within prison are usually focused on keeping the prisoners mentally happy. Religious programs provide inmates with coping mechanisms and spiritual guidance, which enable them to deal with prison life. These programs also provide forums for prisoners where they can be able to forgive motivate and reconcile with their fellow inmates within the (Johnson, 2004).
Johnson also states that the efficacy of these programs has also not been determined by criminologists given that most prisoners who practice religion in prison fail to do so once they are released. Religious programs are therefore seen as temporary measures that enable prisoners to find spiritual solace in either Christian religious programs or Quran readings. The overall effectiveness of these programs will however be determined by the number of prisoners who have not recorded any repeat offenses on being released from prison. Future Research and Arguments
Although Rehabilitation programs is where our focus needs to be in order to help ourselves and offenders from re-offending, there is still other topics which need to be discussed because this problem has more than one face. One topic that needs to be talked about and analyzed is which method for preventing re-entry is more costly to the tax-payers as well as taking into consideration cost of programs and increased/decreased re-entry costs. Following that, future discussions should also explain which type of criminals get which type of rehabilitation programs.
New ideas on how we can transition from our current system to a rehabilitation-focused one should also be a main topic. Perhaps looking into other countries and their programs can also help our epidemic here at home. Policy makers might also want to take on the task of supporting this new idea due to the public concerns of crime rates. Some of their constituents might like and also support a new outlook on the topic. States with high recidivism rates or crime rates in general who have exhausted other methods should also entertain this new awareness.
Conclusion Punitive forms of deterrence have been given their chance at reducing crime rates and recidivism and have not held up and some even failed, being responsible, according to some scholars, for over crowding and negatively impacting the judicial system by keeping offenders captive in it (Bales and Piquero, 2012). As opposed to punitive deterrence, rehabilitation programs as a deterrence for post recidivism results offers different venues of doing so instead of treating all criminals the same.