Social Issues

What Causes Recidivism?


  1. Background of the Issue

Crime of serious nature often creates chaos in the society. From the idea of badness comes the existence of reactions to situations that often result to criminal offences. Several laws have been established to make sure that criminality is controlled accordingly. Nevertheless, these laws were not strong enough to create a society that is completely free from crime. As for a fact, it is assumed that as the years advance, people become more accustomed to the culture of criminality that it is already becoming a social norm that is expected to be simply accepted by the people living in a community full of assumed badness.

Offenders of the law seem to increase every year. The reason for this matter is often counted against the fact that 70 percent of those who have already served time in jail for their crimes return to breaking the law. This is noted as the phenomenon of crime recidivism. Recidivism is basically noted as the manner by which individuals who have formerly acquired an act of offense against the clauses of the law return to doing what got them in trouble the first time they were tried in the court. Several individuals who have already served their time resort to doing crime again after they are pardoned or after they are released from in jail. This is the reason why even though massive efforts and budget are allotted for the creation of programs that would hopefully manage social safety through fighting crime, the rate of actions committed against the clauses of the law and the number of people perpetrating the said actions continue to rise.

2. Purpose of the Research

For this particular research project, a desire of identifying the causes of recidivism is to be focused upon. The reason behind this implication is the fact that it is assumed by the researcher that if the causes behind recidivism become understood fully, then dealing with the problem becomes easier to contend with. Knowing the roots of the issues provide a better picture on how the resolutions to the matter could be attained. Relatively, having an understanding on what goes on behind the minds of the criminals who decide to repeat their offences would provide a better source of confidence on how repeat crimes could be avoided later on. This research’s purpose then is to find out why criminal repetition occurs and how they could be fought against?

  1. Research Questions

To create a better foundation for this research, these following questions shall be used as guidelines towards completing the study at hand:

What is crime? How is it recognized as an offense against the law?

Does the system of criminal justice imposed among criminal offenders dedicated to simply putting them away and secluding them from the society? Or is it able to provide recovery and change to the behavior of those who are incarcerated for their acts?

Is there any specific psychological implication on why individuals who have committed crimes in the past return to their old works and become endowed to repeating their offenses? If there are indeed psychological basis for these reactions, could it be that there are also possible resolutions to the matter based on a psychological approach.

What specific procedures have already been considered through time especially in relation to the need of reducing the occurrence of recidivism?

Considering these questions, it is assumed that this research would follow a path that would define the condition of the study that is to be handled herein. It is hoped that through the consideration of these specific queries that the enlightened understanding regarding recidivism provide a strong source of confidence as to how the issues of the said criminal situation in the society could be resolved further.

Thesis statement

Various studies indicate that recidivism directly connected to whether, or not a prisoner went through and finished rehabilitation program. Society has failed to identify problems in prisons and continue to try past methods that prove to be inefficient. Offenders have often built skills to help them have jobs and create positive changes in their everyday life. Offenders should remain socialized and hopeful for a bright and fair future to ensure recidivism does not arise. Reinforcement of positive behavior should be the main agenda, prison education should also be reformed this provide a stable environment in which prisoners can develop skills that enable them to be employed and no longer commit crimes.

4. Approach and Methodology of Research

To complete the study being pursued with regards the topic concerned, this research shall be based upon several references that are dedicated to accomplishing resolutions that are necessary to reduce recidivism rate in the United States. Being concentrated in America alone, it is deemed that statistical data about country’s status in dealing with crime rates and handling jail duties and creating better jail environments shall also be given attention to. All the references chosen, including statistical data shall be used to provide workable information regarding the occurrence of recidivism and the causes that perpetuates its existence in the field of criminal justice.

I. Defining Recidivism

According to Maltz (2001), recidivism in a criminal justice context is defined as an individual’s reversion to criminal behavior after he is being convicted of a prior crime, punished and (supposedly) corrected. Gaining insight from this particular description, it could be concluded that recidivism is indeed seen as a source of social chaos from the point of distinguishing individual reactions to the situation that are happening in the community. The existence of a crime and the offenders’ reconsideration in doing it again massively creates a repeat situation in the communities they are enjoined with. Notably, this particular issue manifests the fact that the society at present is standing in the course of chaotic display of human behavior. Crime basically becomes the result of negative reaction. Recidivism however comes from different causes.

Behavior is often defined to be among the many reasons why recidivism occurs. More often than not, individuals who are noted to incur criminal actions are assumed to have had their decisions based upon several aspects that affected their behavior from the point of being taught from their youth towards the years when they age into maturity. This is the reason why psychologists also often explore the distinctive effect of past experiences, upbringing and the environment that humans live in, with relative connection to the way that they react on matters and the situations that they have to deal with through time.

1.1 Types of Recidivism

According to State of Connecticut, there are four types of recidivism:

  • An incidence of re-incarceration

This type of recidivism suggests the occurrence by which criminals become re-incarcerated due to the same case that they were incarcerated for before. This means that they have already served time in the past and have been given the chance to be free, however, when they were released, they choose to come back to the same act and finally become accused and convicted with the same crime. More often than not, cases that are included in this type of recidivism involve drug-related issues (Bailey, 2009). The addiction behind the substance and the act of actually pushing it for higher and easier source of money becomes fully effective in motivating criminals who have once been involved in the action to take chance and undergo the same crime again.

  • New conviction

Released from their years of incarceration, there are instances when the behavioral desire to inflict badness on others or on certain properties of other people pushes individuals to become obsessed with committing a crime. In this case, there are several instances when they become convicted with new aspects of criminal offences. For instance, a person who has been incarcerated for burglary in the past may increase his desire to commit a higher degree of crime and the second time would be of a higher impact to his victims which results to new convictions from the court.

  • Same criminal returns to prison with a new sentence

It could be that the manner of desiring to acquire specific satisfaction from his actions includes the need to undergo the same criminal offence only with a higher degree of inflicting pain and offense on his victims. This then results to a new sentence under the same criminal situation that he has been involved with in the past.

  • New arrest

There are also some instances when criminals who have been released from serving their time in jail are able to keep their paths clean for some time. With the desire to come clean and become more accepted by the society through keeping their paths straight, there are instances when ex cons are properly able to protect themselves from desiring to commit any crime at all. However, when certain situations occur which confronts their sanity and the stability of their new found moral standards, it is most often than not that the said individuals weaken from their desire to change and finally end up committing crimes again. In relation to this, they often are arrested for new reasons of criminal offense, nevertheless, the motive remains intact and the reaction that they have imposed on the situation specifically puts them in a situation that questions their capacity to control themselves as they handle life’s pressures accordingly.

1.2 Examples of Recidivism

According to the latest reports, the most crime offenses receiving high rates of recidivism are that of the drug-related issues (Cooley, 2010). Most likely, as mentioned earlier, it is the addiction on the substance and the manner of earning that drug dealing provides that pushes criminals to repeat their mistakes under the said type of offense. Drug-related cases include matters of dealing drugs in the black market, becoming human drug carriers from one nation to another, drug addiction and other matters that insist on the connection of a person towards the assumptive effects of addictive drugs.

The lucrative financial offer under the course of drug dealing has created a sense of security for those who undergo the involvement on such industry that they remain dedicated to their ‘bosses’ in the industry even after doing time in jail. This is the reason why even as they get out from jail, they find themselves back at their old ways of living. Some simply do not have any other choices. Given the fact that they have already been marked by their years of being incarcerated, establishing trust with individuals from whom they hope to get help from is very difficult because of their history. Even though the cases against drug related issues that are released out after several years of serving time are usually only small cases, the rate of recidivism continues to rise as the individuals involved in them become even more motivated to take their actions to higher levels of victimization especially considering that they were given the chance to do so.

Burglary, arson and other manic-based reactions also often become sources of repeat crimes. Notably, it could be realized that individuals who have compromised behavior on situations that they have to deal with especially because of the recurring force that pushes them to react on matters accordingly often become involved on cases of recidivism. More often than not, these issues of criminal cases involving psychological incapacity on the part of the offenders make way for the distinctive manner by which the said people become confronted by the situations that compromise their sanity or their self-definition based on the irregularities they have to deal with in the society. Although it is considered a rare situation, at least 25% of the population of incarcerated individuals in the United States could be classified having a mental illness (Jiler,2009); this rate could still be considered as a serious source of social chaos in the society hence imposing the need for establishing control in relation to the said matter.

II. Trends of Recidivism in USA

According to statistics of Recidivism Study conducted by Florida Department (2011), 2003-2006 there has been an increase in recidivism crime rate due to the influence of uncontrollable factors such as issues of local criminal justice and unemployment. In the same manner, international reports on the trend of recidivism and factors, which have induced people to engage in same crimes, follow the same path as the changes in the environment often create pressure in the minds of the offenders hence pushing them to commit yet another crime.

While drug addiction remains to be at the top line of reasons that causes criminal offense recidivism, it could also be noted that social and behavioral based issues rank at a high stake in connection with the decision of past offenders to repeat their actions or at some point even increase its impact on their victims.  The USA, being a country serving as a host to several individuals coming from different nations worldwide, it could be understood that somehow, the rate of crimes related to issues of racial disparity also creates a specific point of distinction as to why people get pressured to engage in criminal acts repeatedly. With social issues such as racial division and poverty, being involved in situations that pressure a person to react to matters outside the limits on the law makes it an easier risk to take into account.

III. Literature Review on Criminal Recidivism

According to the report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009), there are already 1,613,656 prisoners in correctional facilities around the United States during year-end account between 2000 to 2009. Although there was a relative decrease in the rate of crime from one month to another, it has been realized that the increase of the number of incarcerated individuals have been accounted against the fact that most of the individuals who have already been released from the incarceration facilities are usually coming back to serve for extended years due to repeated criminal acts. Most often than not, juvenile offenders are the ones at a higher rate of repeating their crimes after being released from jail. Being young and vulnerable to the society they are living in and the pressures that come with it, young offenders often repeatedly follow the same path even though they have already been placed under custody during the first time. This is supported by the reports of Cooley (2010). Through interviewing nine participants to get different points about juvenile delinquency and its relation to recidivism, the author was able to carefully see through the lapse of programs offered to help incarcerated individuals to recover from their past acts and reestablish acts that are more morally defined and are aligned with the law (Nelson, 2004)

Gendreau and Goggin’s (1999) study on the effects of prison sentences on the inmates specifically point out that the culture of badness grows into the being of the individuals who are situated inside the said facilities. Relatively, even though the case that one has been charged seemed to be a ‘small time’ source of social criminality, the normative attitude that he develops in relation to crime and the label that the put on the individuals making them often motivate them to do something harsher than that of the past actions they have incurred. It has been reported through this study that individuals inside incarceration facilities often develop a sense of distinction on how they are identified by the weight of the crimes they have incurred. This then becomes a sense of pride and a mark of machismo or at some point a source of individual distinction in relation to the ‘society’ that they are involved with. From this point, it could then be understood that the being of the person becomes highly acquainted with the regularity and normative specification of what badness is about and how it defines the pride of an individual noted for the crimes he has done through time (Stanz, 2000)

IV. Causes of Recidivism

Based from the situations that have been examined through the reports and studies noted herein, it could be understood that three particular aspects of living specifically appear to be the main causes of recidivism. Below are focused discussions on how they affect the being and the thinking of the individuals involved in repetitive act of offense against the law? These particular points of recidivism causes could be reflected from the resulting reports on recidivism as noted in the graph below.

Scientific studies have noted that various factors contribute to recidivism rates. They pointed out factors such as; personal characteristics as age, gender, race, length and extend of criminality history, knowing how these factors affect recidivism rates is of significant so as to serve as a correct benchmark for measuring whether and how well policies or programs are predicated to reduce recidivism and how it functions.

Source: Factors Affecting Recidivism Rates. (3/3/2013).

The graph shows that on average, an inmate’s probability of reoffending reduces by 2.1% from every year older the inmate is at release.

It also portray that younger offenders are capable of offending again at much higher rates than older offenders.

  • Unemployment: Due to the impact of poverty, people who have been released from prison cannot find a better way of earning for their own and their families especially that they are already marked by their experience in the correctional facilities. Notably, they begin to carry a new name with a new reputation that makes it easier for the people and the society as a whole to lose trust on them and their capacity to work honest and well according to the tasks given to them(Zamble,2000)
  • Improper rehabilitation in the prison: As mentioned earlier, there is an established sense of culture in the prison homes. Most often than not, the capacity of the incarceration facilities to influence the thinking and the attitude of criminals who have been incarcerated on their first offense becomes strong enough to motivate the individuals to hope to acquire and be involved in harsher crimes against their target victims. In a way, incarceration facilities serve as a new society apart from the society outside the bars. This is the reason why honing a criminal aspect of thinking becomes an easy aspect to happen within the said compounded area.
  • Prolonged imprisonment: With the kind of culture that the incarcerated individuals become accustomed to, enhancing the desire to impose much grave crimes once they are released becomes a common source of past time for several inmates who have been in there for a long time.

To reduce the recurrence of specific recidivism cases among inmates who have been released, the following form of rehabilitation program is suggested to be applied in most correctional facilities:


From this diagram, it could be seen how different conditions of recidivism could be reduced if the community itself would help out the people who seek to change through giving them a chance to realign their ways to what is right.

Accountability training is influential model for changing the actions and behavior of offender’s more so; those with addiction which has arise over the past 20 years of implementation addiction intervention and treatment programs in various disciplinary avenues.

Accountability training model applied in many institutional settings especially those found to be addicted (recidivism rate for multiple drunk-driving offenders and other offenders). It uses evidenced –based occurrences such as risk/needs assessments, motivational interviewing, and stages of change, cognitive, behavioral techniques, and standardized criteria and prolong of care principles for excellent re-entry.

Accountability training is peer driven, and staff directed. It’s known to be a series of process and content variables, openly portrayed for training and teaching purpose. In accountability training programs, the main aim is to identifying the role undertaken by an individual and consequences of what he or she chooses. There is a need to make the choice of what to undertake or not to perform the act and accepting the consequences that come with.

Offenders get to learn the best way to deal with difficulties with respect. They are able to respect for others and respect for themselves.

In the model portrayed above, offenders learn that, accountability to one another enables one identify and learn the main variable of existing  in a pro-social environment that each one has  answers to the underlying questions. Offender’s interaction with the peer-to-peer community enables offenders to exercise ways of how to show respect to authority and to get involved in positive resource for change. They get to learn that the choices they make have effects on others and they are accountable for those choices, called to take meaningful and beneficial actions to change how they think and their behavior.

Application of the formula:

Offender’s change-accountability + respect + community enhance reduction of recidivism.

V. Repetitive Victimization – A social dilemma

Because more individuals are released from the prison facilities that are more determined to implicate harsher crimes, the old victims become more vulnerable to receiving repetitive offenses from the said perpetrators. Most likely, the need to suffice the satisfaction that the criminals hope to incur creates a distinctive manner by which a social dilemma is given specific attention. The need to continuously protect the victims is essential. At least allowing them the opportunity to learn self-defense is important. Nevertheless, it is the realignment of the criminals’ behavior that accounts for the better source of resolution to the problem being discussed herein. The reduction of the desire to completely get satisfaction from repeating crimes against their old victims would provide criminals the chance to see through what they have done, work on themselves and finally decide to become better men and women in the society.

Economic difficulties often force prisons to lower funding. They engage in reducing funding for rehabilitation services and doing little in making sure prisoners are not found guilty again. Imprisonment alone does not give prisoners hope for a better life. There is no gain if we are not teaching them the importance of refraining from past actions. The main factor of rehabilitation includes early intervention and the drive to change. The early we intervene, the more likely it is that the crimes will not be committed again. The important thing to be factored in is that it is not the crimes themselves but the behaviors that causes them that is of significant.

Prisons must ensure appropriate funding goes towards rehabilitation programs for safety of our own society.


            Dealing with crime is a serious matter that the governments around the globe must give particular attention to. Understandably, a greater problem on recidivism should then be observed properly and resolved accordingly. The capacity of the governments to provide better programs that would help revitalize the moral being of the individuals who have once been accused and sentenced regarding a crime could provide better protection to the members of the society hence creating a much better source of competence when it comes to establishing the security and safety of the whole society. Completely resolving crime issues may at some point be considered impossible, nevertheless, starting with the hope of reducing recidivism rates and the occurrence of repetitive victimization could be a good start of imposing proper rules that could protect the being of the whole society as they face modern situations the perpetuate the occurrence of crime and offenses against the law. Protecting the lives of the victims and likely giving better lives and second chances to the perpetrators, the new programs for rehabilitating inmates and juvenile delinquents could provide a better source of hope for the establishment of a new society that is ready to embrace a new society of peace and safe living.


Bailey, Kristen. “The Causes of Recidivism in the Criminal Justice System and Why It Is Worth the Cost to Address Them.” Nashville Bar Journal. Dec 06/Jan 07. (April 21, 2009).

Bureau of Justice Statistics (2009), “Prisoners at year end”, US Department of Justice

Cooley, K. (2010), “Understanding recidivism among juvenile offenders: Perspectives of “experts” in Polk County, Iowa”. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013

Florida Department of Corrections (2012), “Recidivism Rates By Year of Release”, Florida Prison Recidivism Study 2011, pp. n.d. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013

Jiler, James. “Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons Through Prison Horticulture.” New Village Press. 2006. (April 21, 2009).

Maltz, D. M. (2001), “Recidivism”, Academic Press, Inc., Orlando, Florida, pp. 2-25. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013

Monthly Population and Accommodation Bulletin, NOMS, 31 January 2007

Nelson, E. P. & Pearson, C. J. (2004), “Confidence in Public Speaking: Telecourse Version”, Oxford University Press, USA; 8 edition. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Treating Offenders with Drug Problems: Integrating Public Health and Public Safety. Bethesda, MD: Author, 2009. pdf tib drugs_crime.pdf.

Pew Center On The States, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections. (Washington, DC; The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2009)
USA Today, 30 March 2009

Stanz, Robert, 2000, “Predictors of Success and Recidivism in a Home Incarceration Program” Prison Journal, 80:326-345.

Weisel, L. D. (2005), “Analyzing Repeat Victimization”, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Problem-Solving Tools Series, 4, pp. 1-37. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013

Zamble, E., & Quinsey, V. L. (2000), “The criminal recidivism process”, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. Retrieved from on February 21, 2013