Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The State of Recidivism
When we are talking about recidivism we have to be careful how we point fingers at statistics when trying to find ways of dealing with the overall issue.
IN ORDER TO CHANGE SOMETHING, SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE!!!!
We cannot continue putting released inmates back onto the street the way we always have and expect the recidivism rates to change.
We cannot continue handling the problem of recidivism without taking an unbiased, fearless and extremely clear and focused look at what is really going on. This may appear to be an overly simplistic beginning to work out a seemingly complex problem, yet this is what is ultimately necessary.
First of all, state prison inmates have generally been incarcerated for at least five years. Many have been locked up for ten, fifteen years or more. During that time, marriages, relationships, employment connections and friends have dissolved and faded away, if there were ever any there at all.
When I was released from a maximum security prison, after serving six years of an original sentence of 15 years to life, I was given $50.00 in cash, an inexpensive sport jacket and pants that didn’t fit, along with a pair of shoes, a pair of sneakers, two pairs of underwear and two pairs of sweat sox. That was it!
My wife had left me for another man, my business had collapsed, I had no home to go back to and like so many other men and women newly released from prison, I carried the label of “Felon” on my resume. What to do?
Fortunately, I had still maintained contact with a friend who let me stay in his home and even gave me a job while I transitioned back into the community. The reality is, however, that the majority of released inmates had been running the streets most of their lives, were into drugs and crime and that was all they knew. Having no money or housing when they were released, they found themselves eventually having to live in poor neighborhoods that surrounded them with drugs and crime and very little possibility of experiencing anything beyond that lifestyle. These were the neighborhoods they originally came from that initially got them busted, and here they were again, back where they started from. Nothing had changed.
WHAT IS IT THAT WE IN SOCIETY EXPECT TO HAPPEN?
Without any money and no hope for real employment, it becomes so very easy to fall back on “old ways,” the things they know how to do: deal drugs or commit crimes. It is always very easy for us to say that there are programs, support groups and opportunities that they can tap into. This, however, does not take into consideration the years of negative conditioning, disrespect, abuse and lack of self-worth deeply ingrained in their consciousness.
It is important to remember that the more prison remains an institution dealing exclusively in punishment and making it almost impossible for him/her to become fully integrated back into the world, the angrier, frightened, hopeless and insecure they will feel on their release. Many inmates feel safer in a prison, where they get fed, have some order to their lives and no responsibility to survive in a world that basically doesn’t want them.
IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A FELON, THEN YOU ARE! IF YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE A FAILURE, THEN YOU WILL MANIFEST FAILURE-YOU BECOME WHAT YOU BELIEVE!
The overwhelming majority of inmates will one day be released from prison and re-enter society. Do we want an insecure, angry and frightened inmate roaming our cities, or someone feeling optimistic, supported and welcomed back with realistic possibilities for a decent life?
It may initially appear that the answer lies exclusively with the inmate but the truth is that it all lies in changing what has always been into something different—otherwise everything remains as it is and will never change!