Recidivism is, by definition, a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially : relapse into criminal behavior. According to a 1994 study done by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on recidivism rates in America, which tracked over 300,000 prisoners in 15 states, an astounding 67.5% were rearrested within three years . In a similar, more recent report, of the over 1.18 Million parolees living in the United States in 2007, 17% of them returned to prison that same year .
What these statistics prove is that when inmates are released from prison, they are obviously not getting the attention or help needed to stop themselves from recommitting crimes. According to USC News, “Eighty percent of federal prisoners report a history of drug or alcohol abuse, two-thirds of offenders do not have a high school diploma or equivalency degree, up to 16 percent have at least one serious mental disorder and 10 percent of those entering jail are homeless in the months before incarceration.”
These numbers are both astounding and atrocious. As a country, allowing such a large percentage of our population to fall back into prison after serving their sentences is a concern which should be on the forefront of needs to be addressed. These individuals are our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members and loved ones. Allowing for such a high rate of recidivism shows a failure on the part of our criminal system, prison system, and the government’s concern on the issue.
So who can we look to for help? I’ve researched several organizations who focus on this issue, helping communities who suffer from the effects of recidivism, but with an emphasis on making reentry the answer.
Citizens Against Recidivism, Inc., is a family-run organization that provides support and counseling to fellow families with incarcerated loved ones. Founded in 1996, one of their main goals is to restore the rights of each citizen who has been released from prison, including their “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”. Citizens Inc has held panels at Harvard University on solitary confinement in prison, as well as authored articles on trauma caused by prison life. Recently, they held their yearly award ceremony for formerly incarcerated individuals who have worked with Citizens Inc, which was attended by New York State Senator Kevin S. Parker.
The National Reentry Resource Center is an educational and training organization, aiming to provide assistance to states, fellow non-profit organizations, and individuals on reentry from incarceration. Their mission, according their website, is to “advance the reentry field through knowledge transfer and dissemination, and to promote evidene-based best practices.” They are also major proponents of the Second Chance Act (P.L. 110-199), which allows organizations to help formerly incarcerated citizens.
Vera works as a research center for criminal justice, exploring the best ways to defend and support formerly incarcerated people. A program run by Vera, called the Family Justice Program, provides educational training to similar organizations around the country, allowing family members to help break the cycles of recidivism.
This organization works to provide housing and support specifically for women in the California area as they transition from prison back into society. A New Way of Life has multiple programs available, including drug cleansing and family housing. Run by founder and Executive Director Susan Burton, who was recently on CNN to discuss the program, ANWOF has also started ‘The LEAD Project’, a monthly workshop for women to come together and discuss political, historical, and future views that concern their lives.
An organization which has been highlighted by lifebeyondprison in the past, this school program helps direct and support formerly incarcerated people who want to pursue a higher education. Run entirely by formerly incarcerated individuals and made strictly to help those who have been through the prison system, Project Rebound boasts fromer Hood recipients, Ivy League scholars, and Magna Cum Laude graduates. Located at San Francisco State University, their hopes are to expand further to more universities, and to continue helping those who need their guidance and support.