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USA Crime and Recidivism Educational Rehabilitation

Kenneth Ray Fisher

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A group of former Federally incarcerated inmates were setting on the park bench in downtown New York City and one posit this question to the others. Hey! Guys, you think if we enroll in Columbia, complete our degrees, both bachelor and master's, we can offset a return to lock-up? One of the other fellows first looked away, then returned his attention to his presenter and said, when you tell the truth, you could pay the consequences! They have found a way to keep your mouth shout, Freedom of speech, an oxymoron!!

On Capital Hill, Experts Call for Change, which reviewed a government hearing in December 2007 where experts testified to the effects and costs of mass incarceration including the economic costs of maintaining the correctional system, the long-term labor market and social costs of mass incarceration, whether incarcerating more people has led to a decrease in crime and an increase in public safety, and policy solutions that could alleviate the burgeoning system while maintaining public safety questions the effectiveness of the current correctional system. At the hearing, Brown University professor in the Department of Economics, Glenn Loury presented data illustrating a 582% increase in correctional systems expenditures between 1982 and 2004 and argued that the current system in ineffective (Gormsen, 2007, p. 68). Loury's testimony at the hearing went on to include the racial disparity in incarceration rates and annual employment and earning rates for blacks before and after incarceration (Gormsen, 2007, p. 68). This research paper will reflect and elucidate the debates, dialogue and researched performed by the above students from Walden University. It will also discuss the effects of Education rehabilitation Criminal Recidivism.

Problem Statement

The following public policy issue was selected. Educational rehabilitation and recidivism are issues that recently are gaining more attention from scholars, academia, government and corrections administrators. Furthermore, according to Vacca (2004), “studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates declined where inmates have received an appropriate education" and other programs and professional services. The problem is, will educational rehabilitation policies and programs reduce criminal recidivism. The current U. S. Senate and President have worked on and passed a policy that may prove to have validated this research.

Current Approach

After reviewing several studies on educational rehabilitation policies, programs and their effects on criminal recidivism, this researcher discovered the following current approaches, starting with early American prison reforms. Two systems that arose from early reform efforts were the Auburn system and the Pennsylvania system. The Auburn system focused on the use of hard work to bring about a change in the prisoner's life (Clear, Cole and Reisig, p. 42-43). The Pennsylvania system focused on solitary confinement where prisoners were separated from one another with time to repent. As a result of industrialization, the progressive movement gained momentum and the focus was on improvements to the social framework of society and rehabilitation of the individual. The groundwork was laid for the punitive sanctions of probation, parole and indeterminate sentencing (Clear, etal. p. 53).

Continuing to the 1960's and 1970's, the Community Model began to focus integration of the criminal into the community. Transitioning from the 1800's to the early 1900's, the medical model arose using explanations of medical abnormalities for causation of criminal behavior. Soon after this model, the Crime Control Model gained momentum in the 1970's and was used extensively into the 1990’ (Clear, etal. p. 54-57).

In a study conducted by Stephens (1990) his research population of 220 male prisoners at a New York State Maximum security prison showed that seventy nine percent of the total inmate populations were high school dropouts (p. 301). The New Jersey Department of corrections reported that its prisons grew from 6,000 inmates in 1975 to more than 25,000 in 1997 (Vacca, p. 301). In support of the need for this study and similar studies, findings showed that an estimated 70 percent of these offenders were functioning at the lowest literacy levels (Vacca, p. 301).

Furthermore, the department reported that of the $25,000 spent yearly on each inmate, only about 2 percent of this cost is spent on education. Thus these findings parallel the interview held with the Warden from Manchester County concerning a lack of channeling funds towards education.

In defining the variable Post-Secondary Correctional Education (PSCE), " for the purpose of this research, according to Chappell (2004), this is defined as any type of education beyond high school, or its equivalency, that have inmates of prisons or jails for students" (p. 152). Also this writer would like to clarify that educational rehabilitation will include academic, vocational, undergraduate, graduate, certificate or degree programs in prison or on the outside. Recidivism will be defined as a tendency to relapse into criminal behavior (Chappell, p. 152). In this study, “these variables were measured looking at rates of re-arrest, re-convictions and re-incarceration" (Chappell, p. 152).

After conducting further research, James S. Vacca (1990) studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where inmates have received an appropriate education (Vacca, p. 297). His research showed that, " effective Education Programs are those that help prisoners with their social skills, artistic development and techniques and strategies to help them deal with their emotions" (Vacca, p. 297). Additionally, these programs emphasize academic, vocational and social education, according to Vacca (p. 297). This same study provided a critical analysis that showed that; program success or failure is hampered by values and attitudes of those in the authority position, over crowed prison population conditions and inadequate funding for teaching personnel, supplies and materials (Vacca, p. 297).

Interestingly, in this study by Vacca, he continues to make reference to the “right education" and “appropriate education. " In analysis of these terms, this writer concluded that Vacca is referring to an education that point to a high degree of specificity towards job skills and targeted at mainstream values and assimilation strategies. Some of these values would include good work ethics, respect, industry, honesty and integrity.

The next study by Shrum (2004) reflects that, “better ways do exist" (p. 1). Cyper, (1997), reports that recidivism and crime rates are readily reducible 16-62 percent and more by broader use of existing rehabilitation programs - substance abuse treatment, academic and vocational education, post-secondary education, intermediate sanctions, and alternatives to incarceration. According to Manitonquat (1996), some programs work so well that the rate of recidivism is as low as 5 to 15 percent. Between these two studies it is highly apparent that given the right attitude by personnel and a dedicated effort by those in authority, along with points made in this previous study, educational rehabilitation effects on criminal recidivism shows a positive correlations in terms of reduction.

During the year 2007, Sabree conducted a research project entitled Georgia Reentry: Transformation In Correctional Philosophy. According to Sabree, the shift in direction to “get tough on crime" philosophy marked an era when a significant amount of legislation was enacted that limited and restricted previously funded programs (p. 1). An example of this, according to Sabree, was the Higher Education Act of 1998 that eliminated eligibility for the Pell Grant for convicted felons, thus eliminating the opportunity for such inmates to pursue a college education (p. 1). Furthermore, laws enacted in Georgia included those for mandatory long-minimum sentence for certain offenses (SB441), two strikes laws that carried life without the possibility of parole (SB441) and laws that allowed juveniles charged with certain crimes to be adjudicated, sentenced and confined as adults (SB440), (Sabree, p. 1).

The early studies used a narrative or qualitative review of correctional treatment programs as the method to deduce findings (Sabree, 2007, p. 1). Later on, as new research methods emerged, the meta-analysis approach to determine the statistical relationship - the effect size - between treatment interventions and recidivism was used to analyze the effectiveness of correctional treatment programs (Sabree, p. 1). Finally, these findings played an important role in challenging the nothing-works doctrine and in the development of new strategies that support principles of effective intervention (Sabree, p. 1).

To help address a soaring recidivism rate in Georgia, the New Commissioner of Corrections implemented a new program or Transformation Campaign Plan. Georgia viewed reentry not as a program but a correctional philosophy that should begin at pre-sentence and be guided by offender assessment and evidenced-based interventions through incarceration, helping make the transition from prison to the community successful (Sabree, p. 1).

This study showed that Georgia pulled all stops and initiated collaboration and partnering efforts with the following agencies, Georgia Department of Corrections - corrections and probation supervision, State Board of Pardons and Paroles - release decisions and community supervision, Office of Planning and Budget - fiscal planning, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council - grant management, Center for Effective Public Policy - NIC technical support and coordination, Department of Human Resources - social and community services programs, Department of labor - employment, Department of Education - academic education, Department of Technical and adult Education - vocational education, Workforce Investment Board - job readiness and placement, Department of Public Health - physical and mental health and the Department of Community Affairs - housing.

New Paradigmatic Approach

In defense of this writer's proposed paradigm, the following research lends credence to what this research proposal and presentation is all about. For example, Spotlight Announcement 1/2008 U. S. Senate Passes Second Chance Act the U. S. Senate passed today the Second Chance Act of 2007. This landmark bill, introduced by Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Arlen Specter (R-PA), provides critical resources designed to reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The passage of the Second Chance Act reflects the strong consensus that improving prisoner reentry is not a partisan issue, but a matter of public safety, improving lives and making effective use of taxpayer's dollars, said assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Justice Center board member and chair of the New York State Assembly Correction Committee. In addition, the Second Chance Act includes key elements of President Bush's Prisoner Reentry Initiative, announced in the 2004 State of the Union address, which provides for community and faith-based organizations to deliver mentoring and transitional services. In addressing a previous research questions and findings, the bill will also help connect people released from prison and jail to mental health and substance abuse treatment, expand job training and placement services and facilitate transitional housing and case management services.

In the case of prisoner reformation, more of the same is essential to the overall success of recidivism reduction. The legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent and now proceeds to the President's desk for signature. This act by the above Senators and final passage by George Bush serves to solidify the research efforts and time each member of group “D" spent conducting valuable information and paradigmatic construction of the top answer to the issue of U. S. A. Crime and Recidivism: Educational Rehabilitation. To be sure, Senator Leahy said, it is vitally important that we do everything we can to ensure that, when people get out of prison, they enter our communities as productive members of society, so we can start to reverse the dangerous cycles of recidivism and violence (

This writer, in an effort to influence the necessity for this proposal and project and others similar to it, conducted individual interviews within the community or surrounding counties. These are the results for this writer's area and a phone interview synopsis with the Warden of the Manchester County Detention Center.

On Monday of last week, this writer held a phone interview with the Warden at the Manchester County Detention Center. After greetings and a briefing of the purpose of the interview, the Warden gave his consent to continue with the interview. This writer mention to the Warden that education and vocational rehabilitation are central issues facing the possibilities of inmates being recidivist's statistics in our criminal justice systems. The question presented by this writer was, what does he see as the existing governmental frameworks and programs in place to help address this problem from the perspective at the local level. The Warden said, " our governmental system have work

release programs, in- jail GED programs, and community service projects in place to help the inmates that are sentenced" (Warden 2008, Manchester County, personal interview). He continued to say that, " a great preventive tool would be to educate the family, churches, potential employers and communities across states concerning how to get involved in the released inmate's re-entry into society to help him or her to avoid returning to the criminal justice system" (personal interview). After a brief pause, the Warden stated that one possible major solution he sees is that inmates can avoid their previous associations, neighborhoods and social engagements they conducted prior to incarceration. Now sounding a little more enthusiastic, he said that, “another solution I see is that previously incarcerated persons can involve themselves in groups and share their experiences and day to day functioning about life as an inmate" (personal interview). The Warden then stated that, “we may never see a complete solution to recidivism per se, because corrections facilities, to include prisons are social institutions and thus they represent capital investments and marketing products and services to a family through the incarcerated person" (personal interview). The Warden told me that when inmates receive longer sentences and are sent to state prisons, their opportunities increase for improved preparation and programs available to assist their return into the community.

In conclusion, educational rehabilitation, substance abuse treatment programs, the local churches and most importantly, the family all must unite in the previously incarcerated person's life to assist him or her in getting back on or starting the right path. That path is a crime free, employed, and engaged citizen, father and/or leader in the family and community. The concerted effort of all agencies and the re-institution of voting rights for some convicted felons are but a few of the many programs and laws that are being acted or re-enacted to help people previously engaged and convicted of a crime. Manchester County and the thousand of other counties across America are working everyday towards the goal of rehabilitation of previously convicted criminals. There is much research left in this area of criminal justice and only the men and women in Academia can lead the way down this avenue of discovery of preservation of data.


Chappell, C. A. (2004). Post-Secondary Correctional Education Education and Recidivism: A Meta - Analysis of Research Conducted 1990 - 1999. The Journal of Correctional Education 55(2). June. Criminal Justice Periodical's pg. 148.

Cypser, R. J. (1997). What Works in Reducing Recidivism and Thereby Reducing Crime and Cost. New York: Cure.

Gormsen, L. (2007). On the Hill, Experts Call for Change. Corrections Today. December 2007. Vol. 69. Issue 6, p. 68 Manitonquat. (1996). Ending Violent Crime: A Vision of a Society Free of Violence. Publisher.

Sabree, A. J. (2007). Georgia Reentry: A Transformation In Correctional Philosophy. Corrections Today. Lanham. December. Vol. 69, Iss. 6; pg 80, 5 pgs.

Shrum, H. (2004). No Longer Theory: Correctional Practices That Work. Journal of Correctional Education. Lanham: September. Vol. 55, Iss. 3; pg. 225, 11 pgs.

Stephens, R. (1992). To What Extent and Why Do Inmates Attend School in Prison. Journal of Correctional Education 43(1), 52 - 56 March.

Vacca, J. S. (2004). Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison. Journal of Correctional Education; December. 55, 4; Criminal Justice Periodicals pg. 297.

Warden. Manchester County Detention Center. Personal Interview.

Kenneth R. Fisher


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