Recidivism is defined as the tendency of an individual to relapse into criminal behaviour.
Recidivism is measured by the number of times a convicted felon is re-arrested upon release after incarceration or on probation.
According to the National Institute of Justice, 76.7% of released prisoners were rearrested within 5 years of release, and about 56.7% of these prisoners were arrested within the first years of release. In the same study conducted by the National Institute of Justice, 89.3% of recidivates are male while the minority 10.7% are females (National Institute of Justice). The racial distribution of recidivates was mainly concentrated among individuals who identified as either black or white with hispanics/latinos making up the next biggest category.
One of the major factors foster repeated criminal behaviour in inmates after release is the re- entry into former environments and thus relapse into former habits. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 19.4% of inmates are between the age of eighteen years old and thirty years old. The majority of whom, do not have any skill set or prior knowledge to enable them to successfully provide for themselves due to release as they spent much of their formative years in prison. Within two months of release from prison 88% of inmates rely on family for support as they are unable to fend for themselves (The Urban Institute, 2008). This results in a reintroduction into the same neighbourhoods that forced them into crime. They return to the same company due to familiarity which leads in a relapse into their criminal behaviours.
Having a criminal record as well as the label of a convict makes one among the most unattractive candidates for employment across all sectors. Unemployment among former inmates after a year of release stands at 60% (Robinson, 2005). Unemployment and crime are directly correlated and more so within the age gap of twenty-six years old and fifty years old, which accounts for 76% of the incarcerated population (Bureau Of Prisons, 2016), when one is considered an adult and undeserving of support from family and friends. Additionally, unemployment is highly linked to drug and alcohol abuse which increase the risk of recidivism amongst former inmates which currently stands at 76% among recently released inmates (Dael, 2013).
With unemployment and strained support from family and friends, comes homelessness. In an effect known as the broken windows effect by Wilson, we see how homelessness leads to a fear based system of approach that ultimately leads to increased crime rate (Robinson, 2005). The broken windows effect illustrates how, for example, a street plagued by homeless people, vagabonds and loitering youth is avoided by many people in society due to fear of being attacked and the stigma that comes with these groups of people. In moving out and avoiding such areas, law abiding and well off citizens are unknowingly yielding these communities to those who are not fearful of such communities such as crime kingpins who seek such areas as they are less likely to draw suspicion from law abiding citizens and these areas also provide a good ground for them to prey on the desperation of poverty stricken residents who are desperate to make a living. Due to this migration both in and out of such areas, disorder and crime breed and former inmates are more likely to fall back into crime and ultimately recidivism as these are the areas they can afford to live in as well as provide the opportunity to earn money without discrimination - in form of crime (Robinson, 2005).