Recidivism of Inmates in the US

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Statistics about the American Justice Systems points towards quite an alarming trend, whereby half of the state prisoners wend up going back to the prisons after a period not exceeding five years after their release (Lockwood, Nally & Knutson, 2015). Despite the fact that the justice system has strived to ensure that that the criminals are convicted and put in jail, very little measures are out in an attempt to decrease the likelihood of these people reoffending again. This is a considerable issue since most prisoners will at one stage be released to the community. Criminals are more likely to commit their crimes again. Research shows that those who are involved in the criminal justice system exhibit a higher rate of substance abuse and dependence which is four times higher than the general population and very few of them receive the required treatment. Ideally, prisons are places which are not only supposed to punish the offenders but also instill good morals and offer the required rehabilitation. The high levels of recidivism only imply that there are no adequate education measures that have been established in an attempt to curb recidivism.


With the very alarming trend of recidivism among the inmate in the US, it is high time that action is taken. The judicial system is not only meant to punish, but also ensure that corrective mechanisms are put in place to help the inmates to be good citizens in future. This has not been achieved yet. There is lack of a preventive measure which will increase recidivism rates significantly among the inmates. There is an absence of educational opportunities that would transform the inmates into better citizens, hence increasing the successful reintegration of the inmates into the society. Although drug and rehabilitation are as well important, there is a gap in the education of the inmates which is compelling in a bid to reduce recidivism.


The research aims at evaluating the impact of education on recidivism in the American society. There has been an attempt to point out to the notion that educating the prisoners can assist to deter persons from the tendency to repeat criminal offenses and leads to recidivism (Ryan, Williams & Courtney, 2013). As such, the research is tailored towards examining the validity of this notion, and establishing whether education can indeed reduce the level of recidivism which has taken root in the American Society. It is anticipated that the findings of the research will be conclusive enough to inform state and federal policy.

Definition and measuring of critical terms associated with the study

Recidivism refers to the relapse of an individual into criminal behavior, especially after the person has already undergone the interventions and received the sanctions of the previous crimes (Lockwood, Nally & Knutson, 2015). It is measured by considering the criminal acts that have led into the reconviction, re-arrests or even the re-incarceration of the convict over a given period. There is re-arrests which classifies an individual as a recidivist if s/he happens to be arrested for a new crime after being directly released into the community after the probation period or after having served a specific period of imprisonment. It may include arrests which are associated with alleged violations of the supervised state parole, probation or release. Normally, the re-arrests are based on the number of the unique re-arrests dates, irrespective of the number of charges that arise from a specific arrest event (Lockwood, Nally & Knutson, 2015). If an individual is convicted of two different offenses at the same time, the date of arrest will be deemed to be the date of a single re-arrests event. Reconviction is considered to be recidivism if it results in a court conviction. It a situation where there is no formal prosecution taking place, it will be deemed that not reconviction has taken place. Finally, there is re-incarceration which considers an individual as a recidivist if it results in a jail sentence or being imprisoned as a punishment (Lockwood, Nally & Knutson, 2015). The measure here counts those people who were returned to the local jail, state prison, or any specific term for re-incarceration.

Review of literature

Approximately 9.8 million people have been incarcerated across the world, and about 30 percent of this population comprises of those who are in the US alone. For every 100000 people in the US, 756 of them are prisoners (Clear & Frost, 2015). It is also evident that about 50 percent of the prisoners are non-violent offenders. When they get subjected to the penal system, they become hardened and are therefore more likely to commit another offense. The relevant authorities have not been up to the task to solve this problem (Clear & Frost, 2015). National statistics have also suggested that when offenders are released from prison, about 67.5 percent are likely to return to some criminal offences. If it happens that the released inmate has some level of education, there is a reduced risk of returning to the prison, by approximately 24 percent. The longer the time that one has exposure to education while in prison, the lower the likelihood that they will be susceptible to recidivism. For instance, if an individual was taken through a 2-year course, recidivism level will drop to 10 percent; if it were a four-year course, it would drop to 5.6 percent, and if one attains a post-graduate qualification, it scales down to 0 percent (Jonson & Cullen, 2015). According to a study that was conducted among the Texas offenders in which 25,980 were observed, about 16 percent were re-incarcerated whereas 84 percent of the participants did not recidivate. Therefore, it was concluded that prison education exerts a positive impact in reducing re-incarceration, especially for the inmates who have improved their levels of education (Hall, 2015).


Qualitative methods will be ideal for the study. In this regard, it will be critical to give an account that more descriptive as opposed statistical. This research may need an exact research design plan, and therefore qualitative research will enable the researcher to exercise the freedom of letting the study to unfold more naturally. It will also be important for the researcher to gain more detailed and rich data in the form of written descriptions. The nature of the study requires it to look at the context as well as the social meaning, and how this affects individuals (prisoners or offenders). As such, qualitative research is preferable and effective in this context than quantitative research. However, this method is not scientific, and the information obtained may not necessarily be generalized to the wider population. The time required for the collection, analysis, and interpretation may be the length. The specific qualitative method that will be utilized here is the case study. Cases will be obtained from the United States Sentencing Commission in the form of reports that are submitted by the different federal prisons. The cases will be analyzed with an intention to obtain a greater understanding of the education programs in prisons, and the impact they have on recidivism. Case studies will be appropriate in this research because large samples of participants required for this study are not available. Therefore, it is necessary that information is tapped or obtained from a central point.

Projected/Expected outcomes

It can be established from previous studies that the level of educational intervention is inversely proportional to recidivism level. This will probably be the likely outcome of the study. However, other mediating factors may give a different outcome. For example, the offender may commit a different offence which is not related to the offence they committed before. Again, the time intervals of which the offenses have been committed may be long enough such that there is no relationship between the first offense and the second offense. Whichever the case, it is anticipated that education programs assist in cutting down recidivism levels.



Clear, T. R., & Frost, N. A. (2015). The punishment imperative: the rise and failure of mass incarceration in America. NYU Press.

Hall, L. L. (2015). Correctional education and recidivism: Toward a tool for reduction. Journal of Correctional Education, 66(2), 4.

Jonson, C. L., & Cullen, F. T. (2015). Prisoner reentry programs. Crime and Justice, 44(1), 517-575.

Lockwood, S. K., Nally, J. M., Ho, T., & Knutson, K. (2015). Racial disparities and similarities in post-release recidivism and employment among ex-prisoners with a different level of education. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 2(1), 16-31.

Ryan, J. P., Williams, A.B., & Courtney, M.E. (2013). Adolescent neglect, juvenile delinquency and the risk of recidivism. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(3), 454-465.

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