Combating Recidivism Through Pre-release Programs
By Erika E. – Criminal Justice Intern
According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 650,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year. Of those 650,000 individuals, the struggles they face within the criminal justice system as well as out of the system play a significant role in their success in society. With barriers to reintegration such as finding and maintaining jobs, education, and social bonds, it is evident that decreasing recidivism is dependent on breaking these barriers. Through implementation of pre-release programs during incarceration, barriers will diminish, and the recidivism rate will begin to decline. Thus, released prisoners are more likely to overcome the barriers of societal reintegration, resulting in a lower recidivism rate, upon completion of pre- release programs.
The challenge of finding a job with a criminal record is one of the biggest barriers an inmate must face when returning to society. The Department of Labor states that “employment is a potential source of stability and opportunity for Americans trying to better their lives after involvement with the criminal justice system.” Without financial stability, it becomes nearly impossible to obtain the essentials for living such as food, water, shelter, and clothing. Knowing this, why is it so hard to gain employment after incarceration? One reason for this is that criminal records disqualify an individual for many jobs. A second reason is that returning citizens may lack the skills needed for some jobs.
Job training programs are not as accessible as education programs.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is not mandated to provide Occupational Education Programs, which would help inmates acquire trade skills for employment and focus on necessary skills for entry level employment. Without all inmates having access to this resource, the barriers to employment increase when entering society after incarceration.
The purpose of the educational programs is to provide inmates with the education and skills to become successful members of society. General Education Development (GED) training is associated with various benefits to incarcerated individuals, including boosting employment, raising wages, as well as reducing recidivism. A study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that recidivism decreased by thirty percent for inmates who participated in secondary education programs. This decrease in recidivism can be attributed to opportunities that resulted from becoming more educated. All BOP facilities currently offer a literacy program which prepares inmates for the GED test. All inmates who are eligible are required to take part in the literacy program. Another program that all BOP facilities offer is the English as a Second Language program. In order to successfully complete the literacy program, an inmate must be able to effectively communicate in English.
The implementation of education programs in prisons has affected the likelihood of success following incarceration. These educational programs can save prisons between $8,700 and $9,700 per year per inmate. This savings is a result of not having to re-incarcerate a former inmate after they return to society. While these programs appear to add to the cost of inmate expenses, in the long run it saves the prison system money.
All in all, by providing inmates with educational programs as well as job training, these individuals are given necessary skills to be successful upon re-entry. Without these programs, recidivism cannot decrease and barriers to re-entry will remain untouched. Not only does the incarcerated individual benefit from these programs, but the jails/prisons also benefit. By implementing education and training into jails and prisons, the likelihood of recidivism for an individual decreases and therefore the prisons and jails save money on costs of incarceration.