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111 Town Square Pl, Jersey City, NJ 07310, U.S.

Alexandra E. Hackett
Carmel High School
Word Count: 1922
Effective Rehabilitation Against Recidivism
A very pertinent issue in America’s Prison System today is the exceptionally high rate of recidivism. Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested. Peter R. Dolan, David A. Kessler M.D., Jim Ramstad, John J. Sweeney (2010). Individuals are entering and exiting American Prisons at an alarming rate. The reason there is such a focus on this topic, is because recidivism is a measure of success within the criminal justice system. The high rate of recidivism shows that there are many flaws in the rehabilitation within prisons that need to be addressed. The key to lowering the chances of a person to engage in recidivism is proper rehabilitation. Offenders who receive a full course of evidence-based treatment and recovery services have the best outcomes including reduced relapse and recidivism rates. Dolan et al. (2010). Rehabilitation of incarcerated persons should focus on grooming prisoners to better fit society in a non-criminal way post-prison release. David Hoffman Professor of Law (2017) recognized in his research that Since educational, vocational, and drug rehabilitation programs decrease the likelihood that inmates will reoffend, they also allow ex-convicts to contribute to society, boosting the economy. Implementing effective forms of rehabilitation to better suit the needs of prisoners will better the lives of those released from prison and reduce the amount of recidivism in America.

Substance Abuse Rehabilitation
There is a dire need for easily accessible and functional Substance Abuse Rehabilitation programs nationwide. Thirty- seven percent of federal, state and local prison and jail inmates in 2006 were serving time for committing a violent crime as their controlling offense;§ of these inmates, 77.5 percent were substance involved. Dolan et al. (2010). Substance abuse Rehabilitation should be easily accessed in all prisons for the simple reason that there is a great need for it. Being under the influence of different drugs and alcohol impairs a person’s judgement and decision making. This is a probable reason why substance involved offenders are more involved in violent crime and are far more likely to engage in recidivism and re-engage in criminal acts. Old habits die hard, especially under the effects of impaired judgement. Substance-involved offenders are likelier to recidivate than those who are not substance involved. Over half (52.2 percent) of substance- involved inmates have one or more previous incarcerations compared with 31.2 percent of inmates who are not substance involved. Dolan et al. (2010). Implementing effective substance rehabilitation programs can help inmates lead a sober life and avoid criminal action rooted in poor decision-making from being under the influence of many drug and alcohol based substances. The dilemma in breaking addiction is implementing a program to suite the needs of those involved. This can differ very much person to person. Without treatment specific to the problems inmates are realistically facing and patient administration, these programs will fail as a result of being ineffective. This often prevents inmates from receiving the help that they need to become and want to remain sober again. Research conducted by the CRC Health group has led them to an important conclusion. With no treatment available and drugs easily obtained, how can we expect our prison population to achieve and maintain sobriety? CRC Health Group (2015). Re-entering society post prison, lacking sobriety is disadvantageous to the priorly incarcerated person. By not offering beneficial treatment, the prison system is setting up their prisoners for failure when re-entering society. It is very likely that they will reoffend or become involved in violent crime as soon as they get hooked on any substance again. If nothing is done to change damaging behavior, the behavior will continue. The implementation of substance abuse rehabilitation programs have the potential to drastically reduce the amount of recidivism in crime-related offenders who suffer from addiction. Addiction and substance abuse is a problem that can only be addressed by using collected data to create an evidence based rehabilitation program to provide the most effective treatment. Implementation of these programs would greatly benefit incarcerated persons with hopes of successfully re-entering society.

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Ineffective Behavioral Rehabilitation
Among the many issues of rehabilitation found in American Prisons, a major problem is the misuse of it. Without proper use of rehabilitation programs, rehabilitation will be useless and ineffective. Incarcerated persons are being enrolled in behavioral rehabilitation when they are far more suited for substance-abuse rehabilitation. A person who is primarily struggling with substance-abuse will reap little benefit of behavioral rehabilitation when they should be seeking the treatment of substance-abuse rehabilitation. The criminal justice system must address risky substance use as a preventable health problem and addictive disorders as medical problems. Dolan et al. (2010). Rehabilitation needs to be taken in steps, fixing one thing then on to the other. The first step to aiding this issue is approaching the subject of addiction as a health problem, not just as a crime. An analogy- Through several years of education, physicians learn that they need to treat the illness of their patients, not just the symptoms. It is important that a prisons focus is to treat the illness of addiction, not the committed crime. Though prison-offered behavioral rehabilitation can be effective, it does little to promote getting over addiction or substance abuse. However, such services alone are unlikely to create lasting behavioral changes among those in need of addiction treatment. Dolan et al. (2010). Prison time or basic behavioral rehabilitation cannot be qualified as treatment, it simply does not contain the lessons and experience needed to meet the needs of rehabilitation of substance-abusive convicts. Without the proper use of rehabilitation, incarcerated people enter a very common ongoing cycle very visible in culture today. They become excessively involved in substance-abuse and many times addiction. They then commit a usually violent crime under the influence of such substance and then get arrested and incarcerated. They partake in rehabilitative programs that hardly apply to the real problems and struggles that they are facing as victims of substance-abuse or addiction in generic correctional education till the end of their sentence. Post-release they relapse into the poor habits which led them to imprisonment and eventually recidivism. To avoid this never ending cycle the criminal justice system needs to revise the ways of the American Prison System to more effectively “correct” the behavior of those that imprisoned. Rehabilitative interventions require inmates to engage in the difficult work of changing their thinking and behavior. Francis T. Cullen, Erik Luna (2018) Rehabilitative interventions have the potential to be very helpful, but they must be used with priorities in mind. To benefit affected convicts involved in substance abuse, prisons must not first focus on fixing behavior through correctional education, but on eliminating the roots of the behavior. For many prisoners, those roots lie in their alcohol or drug addiction or substance-abuse tendency.

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A huge trouble nationwide is the widespread use of drugs which has lead to popular substance abuse and addiction. With the very prominent invasion of drug and alcohol use in American Communities and in prisons, it needs to be made a priority to begin eliminating these self-destructing and world-destructing behaviors. When drug abuse is not dealt with properly, the system not only fails to address current addicts but facilitates a culture that promotes drug use. Because repeat offenders commit a disproportionate share of crime, any program that reduces the propensity of offenders to recidivate is likely to generate significant benefits for society. Jesse Sussel (2014). Communities shifting their focus to reduce recidivism rates could greatly benefit them as well as the offenders in their community in many ways. By ignoring the issue of large recidivism, communities are costing themselves among other things, a lot of money. Crime is costly to society because the administrative apparatus that prosecutes, incarcerated, and supervised offenders is very expensive. J.S. (2014). Rather than using this budget for the administrative apparatus society could be placing money in different needed places such as rehabilitative programs. With fewer people in prison, correctional facilities need less money to operate, thus requiring less money from taxpayers (Hoffman 2017). Reducing recidivism will greatly benefit society in several different ways. By preventing priorly incarcerated people from reoffending, they can become a valuable member of society rather than an active member of the prison system.

There a several ways to prevent recidivism, particularly for substance-abuse offenders. The american criminal justice system needs to bring a focus to the current issues that are allowing for high recidivism rates and take action to change them. Changes must be made not only in prisons but through american society as well. The normality of excessive drinking, smoking, and drug use needs to come to an end to better the lives of offenders and prevent them from offending. Said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “One of the best ways to prevent crime is by reducing recidivism, and one of the best ways to reduce recidivism is by equipping inmates with the tools they need to successfully reenter society.” United States Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs (2016). Implementing different programs with the focus of substance abuse rehabilitation for priorly incarcerated persons can help to reduce the likelihood of substance involved offenders to recidivism. Offering this educational or rehabilitative programs to inmates will further their growth and reduce the likelihood of them committing more criminal acts or reoffend and re-enter the prison system. Research shows that inmates who participate in correctional education programs have 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not. Office of Public Affairs (2016)There are so many opportunities to implement or expand upon programs within a community with this focus. BOP is building a semi-autonomous school district within the federal prison system, which will offer programs for literacy, high school diplomas and post-secondary education, along with expanded opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities. Office of Public Affairs (2016). This shows the communities realization of the importance of this movement. The benefits of these programs can greatly affect an entire community and its citizens for the better. Focusing on the issues within a community that are bystanding or promoting recidivism and changing them to supportive, effective, and rehabilitative programs is what can reduce national recidivism in America.

Dolan, P. R., Kessler, D. A., M.D., Ramstad, J., & Sweeney, J. J. (2010). Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population (II ed., Vol. February 2010, Behind Bars).

Hoffman, D., Professor of Law. (2017). The Economic Impact of Prison Rehabilitation Programs (9th ed., Vol. 6). Philadelphia, PA: Penn Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from

CRC Health Group, C. (2015). DRUG ADDICTION IS AN ILLNESS NOT A CRIME. Cupertino, CA: CRC Health Group. Retrieved October 3, 2018, from

Cullen, F. T., ; E. L. (2018). Evaluate corrections officials not just on the state of prisons, but on rate of recidivism. Retrieved from

J. S., Senior Quantitative Associate at Social Policy Research Associates. (2014). How Communities can Reduce Recidivism. Retrieved from

Office of Public Affairs (2016). Justice Department Announces Reforms at Bureau of Prisons to Reduce Recidivism and Promote Inmate Rehabilitation. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from

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