By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp
The study and analysis of the risk of recidivism for men still requires an ongoing investigation. Clinical trials are a primary option for determining explanations for repeat offenders and while studying the subject statistically, analysts can look at the matter from a socioeconomic standpoint. It is suggested that those from a similar background would experience comparable risks for repeat offenses. From my experience, recidivism occurs more frequently to those that don’t have a healthy support system, quality employment options, or a positive living conditions.
Many analysts have attempted to find the proper criteria for predicting recidivism. For example, men who did not finish high school are compared to other groups using the same characteristics based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, and other similar prediction factors. However, the fact remains that though the data predicts an outcome, resolutions for the prevention have yet to make a significant mark in life after incarceration.
Within three years of release, the average percentage for repeat offenders that return to prison is over fifty percent. Statistics, tests, and studies often show several different answers and opinions on why past offenders repeat the same crime or commit new crimes. However, the commonality amongst most socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic lines remains that these men are often unable to reenter society without crashing into the same situations they were under before. Men are often released and reconnected with their past troubles such as family problems, mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependencies, etc. An individual’s community, employment options, and housing play a large role in the likelihood to re-offend. Without substantial guidance and fair opportunities, it is very difficult to rebuild without proper tools.
Many men who have committed crimes are unable to gain legitimate employment due to large gaps in employment history, lack of education, and stigmas based on their past indiscretions. When I returned home, I was discouraged while looking for quality housing and employment. It’s true that I could have found a minimum wage job any day of the week, but they often are poor work environments that wouldn’t cover living expenses or pay me what I’m worth. To make enough money to get by, I would have to work long hours and possible cut back on entertainment and investing in future. Frustrated with my search, I found myself tempted to return to prison because I found it easier to be there than to figure out how to survive the civilian world as an ex-felon.
Armed with the idea of being an entrepreneur, I worked hard to become self-employed as a writer since I had an English degree. However, when I tried to bid for jobs, I found that I didn’t qualify because of my lack of people skills, previous occupational experience, and lack of recommending connections. It was a massive career change since I had only worked in restaurants and was competing against those that had more experience in writing. Even when I did have a great recommendation, my criminal background disqualified me from employment. I decided to live as cheaply as possible and with my parents until my self-employment could cover my living expenses.
Before moving in with my parents, I had issues finding a decent place to live. I spent my childhood in the suburbs, but couldn’t afford that type of upscale living after prison. My first apartment after incarceration was in studio in Oak Park, a poverty stricken and crime riddled area of Sacramento. The place was cheap and the landlord didn’t mind me having a prior felony. Although I didn’t experience any issues, this part of town was very new to me. I tried my best to get out of the area, but because of my record and lack of quality employment, I didn’t have a chance. Several former inmates find themselves in Oak Park or similar places. Without a deep belief in their abilities or themselves, they could be stuck in the same conditions, unable to obtain education to transition into better opportunities.
The criminal justice system seems to be more focused on apprehending criminals rather than attempting to offer assistance in the aftermath of the arrest. As I mentioned in my book, Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp, prison does nothing to help the inmates re-adjust to society. Thus, the rising amount of recidivism in this country has yet to be solved. Overcrowding and poor living conditions often leave inmates with little choice than to do what is necessary to survive. Sometimes those choices that caused them to see the inside walls of correctional facilities follow them when they reenter society and the cycle continues.
Analysts continue to attempt to predict the risk of recidivism, but the goal should be differentiating between high and low-risk offenders in order to parallel sentencing, prevent overcrowding, and save longer and necessary sentences for extremely dangerous offenders. The risk remains, however, that returning to society often leaves offenders unable to make a living, eat, or provide for themselves or their families without running into frequent roadblocks. It is safe to say recidivism possibly exists because although these men have served their time, it never quite feels, to them, as though they have.