In the United States, there are various mechanisms that have been adopted and implemented in order to deal with the issue of recidivism. The most common ways that have been used are the adoption of different programs that place their substance and purpose to the reduction of recidivism and assisting recurring offenders to keep them from returning to prison and other offender institutions. A majority of these programs have been and still are correctional programs which have had a great effect within the correctional circles (Bonta, Jesseman, Rugge, & Cormier, 2006). Despite the argument that is commonly held by some correctional officials and even the public at large, the issue of using correctional programs in reducing recidivism has had a great impact on the recurring offenders and the society at large. The opponents of the use of a diversity of programs in order to help reduce recidivism have consistently held the claim that it is impossible to reform any criminal. This bearing taken by the opponents of recidivism programs has, however, been experiencing a constant change over the years. This is due to the increased public concern regarding the ever growing social and economic costs that are brought about by incarceration (Aos, Miller, & Drake, 2006). In the United States, there has been a common use of three particular programs including the educational, employment, and treatment programs that have greatly reduced recidivism despite the challenges that they face.
Reduction of Recidivism
These programs have been found to bear the most significant impact on the reduction of recidivism. The most common element that is shared among these three programs is the fact that they address the barriers that are related to employment. They are also known for their positive impact on the need to be self-sufficient. In this way, persons going through these programs are often taught to be able to develop themselves so that they will be able to depend on themselves almost fully (Bloom, 2006). These three programs have, furthermore, been able to contain and explore other matters that affect recidivism. These factors are also related to employment. They include housing, race, and health. All these issues also have independent influences on recidivism. There have, however, been claims that these programs and their outcomes have not been well recorded and distributed to indicate a more vivid picture and explain their effect on the reduction of recidivism in general. The three major programs are considered to mainly address such issues as substance and drug abuse, mental health, education at various levels, and employment (Latessa & Lowenkamp, 2005). The majority of prisoners in the United States often face with multiple barriers. They, therefore, need to be included in programs and services that would be helpful in preparing them for their release. They are also required to be practicable in assisting them with their lives after they have been released. It is, therefore, recommended that the programs should be effective enough to afford access by the offenders to virtually every necessary service. This should be both during their time in prison and even after they have been released. The three commonest recidivist programs that have been stated above are among the most effective in the addressing of these critical matters as recommended and required (Elam, 2008).
There is a higher prevalence of the abuse of drugs and other substances among the populations in prison than that experienced in the public at large. These conditions are considered to be the most critical barriers to the issue of employment. They are also directly associated with the increasing rates of recidivism (Effinger, 2007). For instance, drug abuse is often accompanied by the commission of criminal acts via the use of substances that have been declared as unlawful. They are, therefore, closely tied to recidivism. The most common cases that involve the occurrence of such matters entail the violation of the parole programs (Hollander, 2006).
Treatment programs are divided into two main classes. These groups entail the treatment of the abuse of drugs and other substances, as well as treatment of mental conditions and illnesses.
Drug and Substance Treatment Programs
The treatment offered regarding the abuse of drugs and other substances mainly started due to the increased prevalence of problems that were linked to such abuse of drugs and substances. The abuse of substances has been thought by a majority of scholars and the general public to be the most common cause of crimes and incarceration in general. About half of all the crimes committed are connected with drugs. It has been, in fact, reported that about 20% of people convicted of criminal offences committed these offences so as to get funding for acquiring drugs. It has also been considered a major reason and cause of recidivism (Clement, Schwarzfeld & Thompson, 2011). To aggravate the situation, there have been reports that approximately 36% of criminals have been recorded or said to have been on the use of alcohol at the time they executed their crimes. The largest number of persons arrested for having committed various crimes has been tested to indicate that they were positive on the use of drugs (Warren, 2007).
Drug abuse treatment as a means of reducing recidivism has demonstrated positive effects on recidivism. Studies have pointed out that over the last twenty years there has been a great reduction of recidivism as a result of the use of treatment programs founded on the rehabilitation of drug use amongst the offenders. The ultimate effect has been that the rates and incidences of criminal conduct have drastically fallen. Furthermore, there has been an increase in the length of time that the released convicts have spent without the commission of any other criminal act. The treatment programs have also resulted in the reduction of the amount of drugs that are consumed by the released inmates. It has led to a fall in the incidence of the consumption of drugs. The use of treatment packages has, however, proved to be more efficient in cases that relate to offenders that have only a low level of drug usage (Effinger, 2007). These criminal offenders often do not bear any considerable past of criminal activities. The use of treatment programs on the basis of drug and substance abuse in reducing the issue of recidivism has been a positive one with minimal challenges experienced (Mitchell, Wilson, & MacKenzie, 2007).
Despite the particular findings regarding the impacts of the treatment of drug abuse in relation to recidivism being limited, there has been a positive indication of these programs as cost effective. This drug and substance abuse treatment has been considered effective in terms of expenses with the main cause being the use of funds saved on offences that have not been done whilst the offenders are on the treatment programs. This cost saved is enough to set off the overall costs incurred by the treatment programs (Aos, Miller, & Drake, 2006).
There has, however, been a widespread shortage of treatment programs for the released and current inmates in America. Only about 60% of the penitentiaries and prisons in the United States are able to offer drug and substance abuse treatment programs to their inmates. This has resulted in a drastic decrease in the participation of the offenders in such programs over the years. This is being addressed by the government and other non-profit organizations through the development of new facilities and programs. For instance, the Sheridan Correctional Facility in Illinois is a new program that is aimed at the rehabilitation and reduction of recurring offences by inmates. This prison was majorly constructed for the sole purpose of keeping and rehabilitating security offenders who have problems that relate to the abuse of substance and other drugs. There is also expansion of existing programs and amenities.
There has also been the use of drug courts in dealing with the problem of drug abuse in reducing recidivism. In the drug court system, inmates with drug problems are separated from other prisoners that do not have such drug and substance abuse problems (Effinger, 2007). This was mainly recommended due to the fact that the overcrowding in the prisons was the major cause of the increased use of drugs. Drug courts are mainly used to hear those cases that involve drug connected crimes that are not violent in nature.
Treatment for Mental Illnesses
There has been an increased consideration of persons with mental illnesses in the United States criminal justice system. Studies indicate that the incidences of mental illnesses with the inclusion of such conditions as major depression, psychosis, schizophrenia, and bipolar conditions are about triply more in the prison populace as compared to the general public. Mental illnesses in these cases have been considered often to occur as a result of the abuse of substances.
Such mental illnesses are the most common hindrances to employment and effective assimilation of released inmates into the society. A large number of the prisons in the United States offer screening services for mental conditions to incoming convicts. They also strive to provide those prisoners found with mental disorders treatment in the course of their stay in the prisons (Warren, 2007). The most common treatment received by the inmates with mental illnesses includes the use of prescription drugs and counseling.
A majority of the treatment programs for mental illnesses face various challenges. These include the inadequacy of their screening services and the lack of accessibility to efficient mental treatment that is healthy enough. The biggest challenge, however, is that most of the existing mental illness treatment programs for the inmates often fail to offer these prisoners sufficient preparation for their release. These programs also fail to provide follow up services to the released prisoners after they have served their terms and have been allowed to go back into society (Elam, 2008). Despite an approximate two-thirds of prisons providing their released prisoners with referrals for mental health amenities, only a few offer assistance in terms of arranging appointments and follow ups in order to make sure that the treatment for their mental illnesses is received. Furthermore, parole institutions do not assist with the problems regarding the mental health statuses of the released prisoners (Hollander, 2006).
Among released prisoners, the issue of low educational accomplishments bears the most significant barrier to their employment upon the release. The value of education is that it offers a person appropriate fundamental skills that are required for any entry into the labor market. It also offers the individual released inmates the capability of developing a feeling of self-realization and efficacy. These crucial advantages of the education make it among the most essential things that the released inmates would need and derive a number of benefits. There is, therefore, a fundamental aspect, placed in the requirement for education by the criminal justice system of the United States as a tool for the greatest reduction impact on recidivism. Among prisoners, the most common requirements are degrees attained in high school. The lack of such a degree is often connected to a higher occurrence of criminal activity. Studies have further linked lower educational accomplishments with an increased rate of offences and reoffending (Bonta, Jesseman, Rugge, & Cormier, 2006).
The use of educational programs should always attain precedence as the most basic programs aimed at the reduction of reoccurrences of criminal conduct and activity by the released inmates. Educational programs contain modest requirements for their execution. Most of the penitentiaries in the United States provide their inmates with educational services. These range from such packages as vocational coaching and coursework training. The attainment of educational qualifications such as in the GDE courses has led to a reduction in reoffending.
There is, however, a challenge faced by the use of educational programs as a means of reducing recidivism. The slots offered in educational programs are limited. There are, furthermore, restrictions placed with regards to the enrollment into the programs. This means that only a small percentage of prisoners within a particular system would be able to take part in the educational programs. This leaves a majority of the inmates uneducated and thus highly unlikely to attain any employment. The ultimate result of this is that a larger number of released inmates would find it quite difficult to fit into the society without any employment. Together with the strong propensity to engage in criminal conduct, these released inmates bear the inclination to commit criminal offences.
Released inmates require employment so as to accomplish self-sufficiency. They also need it in order to be able to avoid engaging in criminal conduct (Visher, Winterfield, & Coggeshall, 2005).
There has been a common use of employment programs in order to reduce recidivism in the United States. Such programs as work programs may be run upon persons whilst they are still serving their terms so as to equip them with experience and skills that would boost their ability to be employed upon release. There is, however, no particular national program intended to offer prisoners useful chances to carry out some work whilst they are in prison (Bloom, 2006).
The problem with the kinds of existing programs that have been put in place, however, do specifically contain elements that would lead to the reduction of reoffending. The key purpose for the implementation of the work programs includes the need to earn revenue for the running of the penitentiary, providing accommodation, and pacifying prisoners. Despite the lack of the intention to reduce the rates of recidivism among the released prisoners in using employment programs, such programs have indicated the decrease in the recidivism rates. This is simply due to the self-selection nature of these programs (Visher, Winterfield, & Coggeshall, 2005). No person is forced to join any program. They simply join them at their own volition (Robinson, VanBenschoten, Alexander, & Lowenkamp, 2011). This group of inmates is then less likely to engage in criminal activity whether they are part of a particular program or not. This, however, been majorly indicated in case that involves older men.
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There are several challenges faced by policy makers in bid to have a lasting impact on the behavior of youths. Coming up with appropriate conditions of supervision in the community is a hard task. The juvenile justice system may make life even harder for the youths. This can be through setting a list of rules that the youths cannot understand and hence cannot adhere to them. Approximately 15% of the youths who are confined did not clearly understand the rules. This challenge can be curbed by juvenile justice agencies coming up with conditions under which the youths can be supervised. These conditions must be achievable and reasonable (Lipsey, Landenberger, & Wilson, 2007). The Washington State is a good example. It set a project that guided courts on how to deliver the circumstances of probation to the youth in a more explicable way. This project was successful since most of the youths were conversant with the requirements. It is common that the youth will adhere to something that they well understand (Bloom, 2006).
Restructuring the roles of the supervisors is also a big challenge that hinders the process of improving the behavior of the youths. The juvenile systems should make it possible for the officers to spend more time addressing the causes of the youths’ behavioral changes. This is as opposed to the more time they spend on supervising them (Bonta, Jesseman, Rugge, & Cormier, 2006). This effort can be of a great help in making a significant difference in recidivism and other outcomes of the youths .Coming up with more reasonable conditions of supervision reduces the need for constant attention and enforcement.
Supervising officers are assigned a large number of youths to handle at the same time. This increases their workload thus making it hard for them to deal with the youth on a more close and personal range. Policies should be implemented to ensure that each supervisor is entitled to a few youths .This will ensure sufficient contact between the supervisory officers and the youths. Lack of contact between the youths and their families is another big challenge. Ensuring regular contact between the youths, their families, and close family members is a solution. This can be a great milestone as it will give them moral support which will aid in behavioral change. Supervision sessions are held in the environments that the youths are not comfortable with or do not feel secure in. This is a major challenge to the officers as the youths do not respond appropriately. Holding the supervision sessions in the youth’s homes or any place they feel more comfortable and safe should be done. This way the youths will feel free to engage and respond to the interventions of the supervisors (Clement, Schwarzfeld, & Thompson, 2011). Lack of funds to train the supervision officers has proved to be a real menace. This deprives them of knowledge on how to handle the youths during the supervision process. The supervising officers should be trained in techniques based on evidence to facilitate changes in the behaviors of the youths and their attitudes.
In bid to encourage the youths, more graduated responses to youth behavior should be instituted. It is well known that adolescents are not sensitive to degrees of punishment. In this case, the juvenile justice systems should use rewards and incentives instead of constantly punishing them. This way they will be more compliant with the supervision conditions. It is important to note that most adolescents learn from the mistakes that they have made. Policy makers should encourage the justice system to use the graduated response model only when the youths do not adhere to the supervision rules or the court. A continuation of interventions to handle youth misbehavior is facilitated by the graduated response model. This is a better channel to follow considering the level of youth’s non-compliance. Jumping in to more adverse response such as a formal violation of probation is not considered as a first option.
The graduated response model ensures that the youths are held responsible in a more advanced and appropriate way. Also, it helps in reducing the costs of the resources used in the supervision process. This response consists of the risk of offending and the level of misbehavior. The system agencies should be able to evaluate themselves on whether the risk levels of the youths were determined appropriately (RKC Group & Przybylski, 2008). The important needs of those youths are also identified and addressed in the right manner, making adjustments to the youth’s services and supervision. For instance, a young person who is consistent in committing probation violations may require a higher level of supervision or change in services for behavioral improvement (Aos, Miller, & Drake, 2006).
The supervisory officers do not have a mandate to change the frequency of contacts with the youths. This is a big challenge to the officers as they cannot use the youth’s assessed risk level to determine the frequency of contacts. They should be authorized to do so as an incentive for appropriate behavior and ensuring that the youths comply with the supervision conditions.
The rate of recidivism in the United States system of justice has been continuously high as a result of many reasons. These include the need to attain self-efficacy and independence. This issue may be attained through such matters as employment. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to think that there are no programs working on the reduction of recidivism. Actually, variety of research is present on how to bring down the chances of a youth reoffending. There are, however, challenges that hinder the effective implementation of the translation of the policies and practices that lead to the improvement of the outcomes for youth. Some of the challenges include the fact that the efforts of reducing recidivism are hardly coordinated across the state agencies, local juvenile justice systems, or numerous service systems. This leads to the agencies within the juvenile justice system and in other youth-serving agencies that do not have a common perception of key challenges. They fail to collaborate and also do not utilize the limited resources availed to them in the implementation of the policies and practices proposed by various researches for the purpose of reducing recidivism and improving other outcomes of the youths. The agencies mandated with ensuring the reduction of recidivism do not provide sufficient accountability.
There is also a lack of full assessments of the system performance of the agencies mandated with reducing recidivism as there is no consistent and reliable information. Additionally, policy makers do not normally make full use of the youth outcome data that is provided for the purposes of holding agencies accountable for the outcomes and guide policy, allocation of resources, the policies of the system, etc. This calls for more efficient ways of ensuring the reduction of recidivism. The best method of helping in the prevention of subsequent contact with the justice system by a young person may be preventing them from being involved with the system in the first place (Robinson & Shapland, 2008).
The agencies should also concentrate on what would be effective in promoting a success re-entry of the youth offenders being supervised by the juvenile justice system to allow them to live a crime free life and a productive adulthood. This may be through offering programs such as treatment, educational, and employment program. The treatment programs will be aimed at treating the youths whose offense may have resulted from involvement with drugs. Rehabilitation will enable them to get back being productive members of the society and not to waste their lives in taking drugs or taking part in drugs-related crimes. Educational programs will enable them to learn the importance of being law abiding citizens and even teach them valuable skills that may help them in seeking for employment. Educational programs will also keep them occupied and prevent them from interacting bad influences. The employment programs will aim at giving these offenders a second chance in life. They will give them a source of living and a chance to interact with the rest of the community productively.
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