Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Justice Administration Sample Paper


       As of 2014, the United States prison population exceeded 2.3 million people which means about 1 out of every 100 people are behind bars (Zoukis, 2014).  To put this number into perspective, the U.S. accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s population, but it holds about 25 percent of the world’s prisoners (Zoukis, 2014).  Incarceration has become a growing problem in the U.S. with the prison population increasing by 55 percent from 1995 to 2010 (Hall, 2015).  This high growth rate over the past decade will result in many more offenders transitioning back into society than ever before because about 95 percent of prisoners will one day be released (Zoukis, 2014).  About 600,000 inmates are released from prisons annually, and about three-quarters are re-arrested within five years and about six out of every ten are reconvicted (James, 2015).  The most recent recidivism study conducted in 1994 by the Department of Justice reports a national recidivism rate of 68 percent (Hall, 2015).  The key to lowering recidivism rates is for correctional facilities to switch their current practice of warehousing prisoners to focusing on meaningful opportunities and programs that increase prisoners’ chance of success upon release.  With so many offenders relapsing back into criminal behavior following their release from prison, something needs to be done. 

       The issue of recidivism is not the prisoner’s problem, but rather the problem of correctional facilities and communities.  Prisoners do not get reformed while in prison, and it’s not because they can’t be rehabilitated, but rather because prisons act like “long term storage lockers” instead of correctional facilities (Esperian, 2010).  Our current punitive corrections system has done the same thing for decades at massive costs with few social benefits or results (Zoukis, 2014).  As of 2011, annual state spending alone for prison facilities was estimated at about $62 billion, with a majority spent on building new facilities, operating and maintaining more prisons, providing food and healthcare for the prisoners, and staff salaries and benefits.  All of these growing costs are actually driven by offenders returning back to prison after once being released, not from first-time offenders (Zoukis, 2014).  It is simply a continuous cycle of incarceration and re-incarceration that are creating these high costs (Bosworth, 2005).  The prison system’s short-term idea of continuing to build more prisons to house more and more prisoners is not the answer.  The practice of incarceration alone has not proven to be effective because the large amounts spent on prisons hasn’t been justified by reduced recidivism rates.  Our prison system needs a more long-term vision which focuses on actually rehabilitating the prisoners through purposeful programs that will help them succeed out in the real-world and stay out of prison. 

       One major cause of recidivism is the failure of support in reintegrating back into our ever-changing society (Bosworth, 2005).  The mission of the Federal Bureau of Prisons is, “to safely confine its prisoner population, and to rehabilitate and provide inmates with opportunities to obtain skills which will aid them in their ability to readjust to their community after being released” (Pavis, 2002, p.146).  This is a great goal, but the results are very minimal if two-thirds of our released prisoners are being rearrested for a different crime within three years (Harlow, 2003).  There are many risk factors that influence recidivism, like age, gender, race, marital status, socioeconomic status, educational attainment and employment status.  Unlike most of these factors, educational attainment and employment status are actually factors that can be used as recidivism reduction tools (Hall, 2015).  Offenders who struggle with finding employment are more prone to criminal activity than those who find meaningful jobs that pay higher than minimum wage (Hall, 2015).  In addition, one factor that contributes to offenders’ difficulty in finding gainful employment is their low levels of education (Hall, 2015). 

       Through statistics we can see that education and employment work hand in hand because unemployment rates directly correspond with levels of education.  According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is highest at 12.5 percent for individuals who have less than a high school diploma and lowest at four percent for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (Duwe & Clark, 2013).  Is it a coincidence that when looking at the educational attainment for our incarcerated population, an astounding 65 percent have not even earned their high school diploma (Harlow, 2003)?  By 2020, the U.S. economy is forecasted to have 165 million jobs and 55 million new job openings (Carnevale, Smith & Strohl, 2013).  Although this is great news, it isn’t so great for our uneducated prison population entering into the workforce upon release.  By educational attainment, 35 percent of those job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree and 36 percent of the job openings will not require education beyond high school (Carnevale, Smith & Strohl, 2013).  The problem we see is that the 65 percent of prisoners who have not even earned their high school diploma will be hopeless in terms of finding employment upon release.  Considering a majority of prisoners don’t possess the basic educational and employment skills that they need to function in society, it should be no surprise that many of those released from prison will eventually return (Esperian, 2010).  One can conclude not only do education and employment directly relate with each other, but also with criminal behavior and reoffending. 

Jessica Thelemann

April 17, 2017