The Financial Troubles That Recidivism Doesn’t Solve: The Problems of the Formerly Incarcerated

By Pyerse Dandridge
Author: Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp

Imagine a man stealing from the grocery store to feed his children. He is caught, serves his time and is later released from prison. In his attempt to follow the correct path, he discovers that no one is willing to give him help or guidance. He now feels forced to steal again to feed his family and handle his responsibilities. Should we still fault him? Should we still group him with other men based on standard comparable criteria such as race and gender, or would it be fairer to factor in his individual circumstances?

Recidivism programs are meant to help former inmates become successful in their communities and prevent them from ever going back to prison. However, upon release from incarceration, many are faced with serious troubles, regardless of their good intentions. Their primary concern is always how to make money, especially if they have a wife, children, or a family who was financially hurt by their time away. All of these factors contribute to their incessant need for provisions. It is often difficult to find legitimate ways to obtain financial means to cover their expenses. To prevent depression, the former inmate could be pressured into committing another crime in order to fulfill his responsibilities.

Programs that are targeted towards recidivism are often designed based on socioeconomic criteria, but every individual is different. Criteria such as race, gender, ethnicity and education are also used. While it may be true that these factors play a large role in a man’s likelihood to be a repeat offender, each individual’s reason for their actions are all subjective.  When these men are studied on an objective basis, there is little room to study the wide variety of individual circumstances that make up for their choices. The system rarely has time to take into account every detail of a person’s personal life so, these men are often grouped in with others “of the like.” Because of this, men often feel that they have no choice but to provide for themselves and others the only way they know how.

Considering this, what is the purpose of incarceration? Essentially, an individual must pay for their crimes based on the order of a court judge. However, after that individual has served the allotted time to “pay” for their crimes, when are they able to reconvene with their lives and leave it behind them? Of course, there are crimes in which one may require more severe repercussions and monitoring, but to what extent must they continuously pay? Even after they have served their time hiring businesses continue to shun those with criminal records.

Without comprehending the motivation behind recidivism, it is difficult to pinpoint the best way to resolve it. The standard physical characteristics and background of a person are only a fraction of who they are and why they do what they do. By relying solely on standard criteria, it is difficult to foresee a significant improvement in the likelihood of recidivism.