Prisons today are overcrowded and are a growing problem in today’s society. “In 2008, the Pew Center on the States reported that incarceration levels had risen to a point where one in 100 American adults was behind bars. A second Pew study, the following year, added another disturbing dimension to the picture, revealing that one in 31 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole” (Pew Center on the States, 2011). It is very costly for the states to maintain the prisoners behind bars. It has been estimated that the cost of state spending on corrections is 52 billion dollars.
Recidivism is a term used by law enforcement agencies that describes the tendency to relapse into criminal behavior. It involves a person being re-incarcerated or re-offending. “Inmates returning to state prisons within three years of release has remained steady for more than a decade; this is a strong indicator that prison systems are failing to deter criminals from re-offending. Using data from 41 states for prisoners released, “a study done by the Pew Center on the States found that slightly more than 4 in 10 offenders return to prison within three years” (Johnson, 2011).
What has caused this rise in recidivism can be due to more studies being done, tracking recidivism more closely, and failure of prison systems/probation programs to rehabilitate inmates. “Prisons serve multiple purposes, including exacting retribution for breaking the law, separating offenders from society so they cannot commit more crimes, deterring the general population from committing crimes and discouraging incarcerated offenders from committing new crimes once they are released” (Pew Center on the States, 2011).
One priority of prisons is to deter criminal activity through incarceration and rehabilitation of its criminals. One way to track rehabilitation of the criminals is by tracking the recidivism rates. This study includes data of prisoners released in 1999 and prisoners released in 2004. Thirty-one states offered data for 1999 and 41 states offered data for 2004. “The Pew/ASCA survey found the three-year return-to-prison rate for inmates released in 1999 to be 45. 4 percent, and 43. percent for those released in 2004” (2011).
This study began its study by sending out surveys to all 50 states. “A self-selected survey or voluntary response survey is one in which people decide for themselves whether to be included in the survey” (Bennett, Briggs, & Triola, 2009, p. 37). Each prison facility decided whether they would be included in the study and they submitted information to the Pew Center of the States. Qualitative data was used to put values on the measurements.
The process of binning was used to categorize the prisoners into three groups, which consisted of first release, all releases, return for new convictions, and return for violation of probation. “The relative frequency of any category is the proportion or percentage of the data values that fall in that category” (Bennett, et. al. , 2009, p. 94). They set up relative frequency tables to determine how many times the prisoners fell under the categories or bins. They used mean, median, and mode to get averages of prisoners released and re-offending.
There were some outliers in the studies. Outliers are defined as “a value that is much higher or much lower than almost all other values” (Bennett, et. al. , 2009, p. 149). “State departments of correction reported on people who returned to one of their facilities, which would not count a former offender who was incarcerated in another state or depending on proximity to high-crime areas in neighboring states or major interstate drug corridors” (Johnson, 2011). The Pew Center of the States analyzed the data and concluded that by 2002, more than 45% in the first wave of releases returned to prison and in 2007, about 43% of the second group returned” (Johnson, 2011).
They came up with these percentiles by looking at the total number of inmates released from each prison for each state and how many were re-incarcerated for new crimes or violation of probation. “One can approximate the percentile of any data value with the following formula: percentile of data value =number of values less than this data value/total number of values in data set” (Bennet, t. al. , 2009, p. 170). “At least 95 percent of inmates in America ultimately will be released and returned to the community. Keeping them crime and drug-free is no easy assignment. Many offenders lacked education, work experience, family support and a stable living situation before they were incarcerated, and many suffer from mental illness or a history of addiction” (The Pews Center of the states, 2011).
Many also have the stigma that comes with having a criminal record and are unable to find work, so they resort back to robbery or stealing. Many times the released prisoners go back to hanging out with their old friends and then it is not long before they fall back into their old habits. In addition, the probation/parole divisions that are supposed to supervise the former inmates are overworked, have large caseloads, and limited technology to keep up with the former inmates.