A good program for crime prevention must incorporate measures to stop the repetition of the cycle of unsuccessful adaptation by the frequent offenders. This paper will incorporate the many challenges often faced by the ex-prisoners in the course of their adaptation after release from confinement. These challenges may deter their aspirations of becoming law abiding members of the society. The paper will majorly target the aspects concerning the high risk prisoners who have a long track record of criminal involvement. The paper will also address successful crime prevention mechanisms through the consideration of the social reintegration of ex-inmates back into the society. Social integration aspect must consider the aspect of reducing the levels of recidivism through various interventions. The interventions represent various efforts put in place by the system of justice usually in collaboration with organizations and agencies in the communities. The programs available for reintegration often focus on the factors of dynamic risk that are related to recidivism. The more specific initiatives touch on the particular problems and challenges faced by the ex-inmates like unemployment and drug and substance abuse. Others focus on the prisoner's groups like the sex offenders and the high-risk juvenile offenders. The various programs for reintegrating offenders will also be looked at in detail, in this paper. The paper will also focus on the challenges that face the bodies responsible for carrying out the reintegration programs in the society. The paper will conclude by offering suggestion on the possible interventions that could be helpful in realizing success if employed in reintegration of the ex-prisoners now and in the future.
After many decades, the famous quote by Young that goes, “only those who perceive themselves as members of the society can be controlled by it,” still holds (Young 1971). Governments in the world have recently tried to employ initiatives of reducing crime and action plans to reduce reoffending by the ex-prisoners. This has been partly achieved by collaboration with the agencies in the community and by providing reintegration services to the prisoners. These new policies depict a shift from reintegration methods that were centered on correction to the measures that put the bulk of responsibilities on the community. In the recent past, the systems of justice and agencies have expanded their arms to take up the roles that were once played by teachers, families and neighbors by means of more informal means. Widening of the judicial system has often weakened the ties of the communities that were once strong and has undercut the responsibility and the roles of the individual citizens and institutions in informal sanctioning and socialization (Braithwaite, 1994). For a community reintegration program of the prisoner to be successful, it must be empowered to exercise its new mandate (McNeill 2006). It is significant to incorporate the aspiration and the values of the community in the process of coming up with a reintegration policy.
A good crime prevention strategy should address the causation factors of crime especially the ones committed by the prisoners who have served their term and failed on their release time (Rakis 2005). The inmates upon release may have a hard time in breaking the cycle of re-arrest and release. Most of the convicted prisoners have more than a single conviction at their youth stage or in their adult stage. To ensure safety of the community, communities and governments should come up with effective approaches that will help the ex-prisoners to reintegrate in the society and avoid indulging in further criminal activities. The programs to help manage the re-entry of the criminals in the society have widely been accepted in the society. The initiatives to identify strategies and programs that will be more appropriate in assisting ex-prisoners in integration into the society without re-offending are on the search.
The effectiveness of the said programs is, however, in doubt. The programs need to be reevaluated to establish their real usefulness as some of them were founded on the basis of conflicting evaluation findings. The programs too have not undergone controlled evaluation. The search for the more successful programs is, therefore, still ongoing. The practices on real life and research seem to move on separate tracks (Petersilia 2004).
When the process of reintegration is done positively, there is some evidence that positive outcomes are realized especially when the factors that lead the criminal to committing a crime are exhaustively addressed and the offenders social needs are attended to in the prison and outside the prison. The process of facilitating the offender’s reintegration is quite complex and measuring the positive effects of the intervention is usually hard. The goals of prevention are often measured as a function of the offender’s recidivism. Recidivism can be obtained by the measure of the number of different instances in which the offender has had contact with the system of justice (Lievore 2004).
This paper majorly will focus on the challenges faced by the ex-prisoner after their release, the empirical evidence of the interventions and program that are designed to reduce the levels of recidivism through conducting successful reintegration processes after imprisonment. The paper will tend to identify the approaches that may be more effective when employed now and in the future and also give suggestions on the possible approaches that could be tried in the quest for reducing the levels of recidivism.
Social integration is usually used to refer to the support that is provided to the prisoners after their release from prison. These programs are supposed to help them adapt to the society and help them avoid recommitting a crime. A wider scope of definition includes the interventions put in place to divert the attention of the ex-prisoner away from the confinement system to an alternative appropriate system and restoration justice. It encompasses the imposition of sanctions at the community level as opposed to imprisonment as an initiative to facilitate the process of reintegration of the offenders back into the society. The initiatives aim to reduce cases of marginalization and the negative impacts of confinement. For the imprisoned, the initiatives inculcate programs of correction in the prison environment and the aftermath care interventions (United Nations on Drugs and Crime 2006). Currently, the community based interventions of the post release programs are termed as, re-entry, the aftercare, support for re-entry or the transitional care or even reintegration. Some of these programs may commence when the ex-offender is still imprisoned with the motive of facilitating the adjustments upon his or her release.
Currently, the government ought to emphasize on designing of more elaborate approaches that are based on continual care to maintain the provision of the help to the offenders in the prison and after their release. I widely agree with the idea that the reintegration initiative should commence before the offenders are released to the community. I think that after the release of a prisoner, the support provided should just help him or her too transform to the immediate environment and reinforce the gains from confinement. This should continue until a time when the ex-offender is fully integrated in the society (Fox 2002). Such initiatives are termed as throughcare: a wide system of intervention (Borzycki 2005). The interventions may assume various forms. Irrespective of the approach, the programs are best delivered when they concentrate in addressing the specific challenges of the offenders.
The post release challenges facing the offenders
The prisoners imprisoned in the various correctional institutions are usually faced with a wide range of economic, personal and social challenges that tend to act as impediments to a lifestyle that is free from crime (Borzycki and Baldry 2003). Some of the said challenges are brought about by their past experiences of the prison. Some are connected to the impacts of imprisonment and the difficulties experienced in trying to fit back in the society (Borzycki 2005). Historically most of the offenders have been subjected to marginalization, unemployment or poor employment conditions, emotional abuse and the immersion in a criminal lifestyle that commenced at a tender age. The offenders may also be faced with mental and physical problems and health problems that may have arisen from the abuse of drugs and substance. Most offenders also experience deficit in skills that make them unfit for the stiff competition that is in the society. They lack proper interpersonal skills, have low levels of formal education, at times they are illiterate and exhibit a lack of proper planning and skills of management. The other practical problems that could be experienced by the offenders may include finding a good accommodation, management of finances especially with no savings and in accessing of the daily needs.
The transition period of the offender may be made more difficult for the offender especially the subjection to communal supervision. This may cause the ex-offender a lot of stress. Most prisoners may have lost all they had worked hard to gather in life, their personal properties, their personal relationships, their family relationships and their social networks. Homelessness may position the youthful offender in a situation where by he is likely to offend again (Arnull et al 2007). After having assessed the cost of supporting the reintegration of offenders against the benefits of avoiding incurring future financial and social cost, I tend to argue that the initiative to carry our reintegration programs is a noble course.
The major and the basic needs that ought to be addressed by the community and the institutional based services are matters of employment, education, alcohol and drugs, health, attitudes and cognitive skills, social networks and accommodation. The mentioned risk factors are subject to change while other few are not (Harper and Chitty 2004). Evaluation programs conducted in the United Kingdom has outlined various approaches to reducing the impacts of these problems. It proposed among others, provision of social skills and reasoning education, support on parenting, family literacy, preschool education and reading schemes and organizational change (Stephenson and Jamieson 2006). Much effort could be put in effecting these programs, but they do not bear fruits as expected at times. This is because of the impediments caused as a result of the unwillingness of the inmate to participate in the programs. Some are completely repulsive to subjection to the program. The professional involved in the provision of such services may also be ill trained and the targets and the objectives of the programs may be conflicting (Stephenson and Jamieson 2006). Offenders who have had successful completion of the programs are the ones who have had fewer imprisonments in the past and those that have undergone through many years of education.
Attributes and goals of the prisoner re-entry initiatives
The programs are usually dependent on case management approaches and encompass a wide range of interventions. They are also dependent of the current risk factors that the prisoners are confronted with. Many of the programs focus on the specific challenges faced by the ex-offenders after their release from prison. They have been classified in three categories traditionally, the surveillance based programs, assistance based transition programs and the institution based programs. The effectiveness of each of the programs will be looked at.
Institutional based programs
Institutionally based programs are meant to prepare the inmates to gain a smooth reentry into the society. They may include programs on mentoring, job training, counseling, education, drug treatment and mental health care. The programs are said to be effective when they are focused on the exhaustive diagnosis and assessment of the inmate (Travis 2000). Some of the mentioned programs are usually offered before the prisoner is released to the community by the agencies based in the community. The programs tend to focus on the specific risk factors that the inmates could be exposed to. The inmates have the option of attending such programs therefore, majority of the prisoners are reported to be non-partisan to these programs. This leads to their release into the community without adequate preparation. The effective readiness of the offender for release is also hard to establish. I think that the institutional based reintegration programs should be linked to the community based programs. This will ensure that a continued support of the prisoners is maintained even after release, especially to the inmates who do not participate in the institutionally based programs before their release. For this method to be effective, the full participation of the inmates and the prison staff must be ensured. It has been reported to work satisfactorily in many countries in the word.
Surveillance –based programs
These are the programs that concentrate on supervising the ex-offenders after their release into the community. These approaches operate on four models namely need based, the risk based, the middle ground and the strength based models. The risk based works on the premise that the prisoners are still dangerous and, therefore, close supervision should be exercised on him or her after release, they usually involve the use of electronic tracking systems. The need based models focus on the provision of the criminogenic needs through provision of appropriate programs for treatment. The middle ground model incorporates the two models discussed above. However, in the application of both models the supervisors usually face the dilemma of choosing the best model to apply (Fogel 1978). The strength-based model views the ex-prisoner as an assets or individuals to be managed and not liabilities that require supervision. Proponents of this model claim that they are stigmatized and are more likely to commit a crime and it aims at transforming the ex-prisoner from consuming assistance to providing assistance. This result into de-stigmatization of the offender as the community views him as a potential provider (Maruna and LiBel 2002).
Initiatives Designed to Offer Assistance and Support
Depending on the specific need of the ex-prisoner, various programs that are remedial to his or her reintegration in the society can be employed. For instance, the mentally ill offenders can be assisted by focusing on stabilizing their illness, enhancement of their independent operation and by managing the offender’s impulses and violence among other initiatives.
Assistance can also be provided in the employment sector during the re-entry period of the offender. Effective mechanisms should be employed to ensure that this assistance is adequately delivered to the offenders. Employment is deemed as important as it serves to widen the social network of the offender and also provides a means of livelihood for the offender who may have lost his personal properties while in confinement (Graffam et al. 2004). Research shows that the prisoners who are able to secure jobs are far less likely to indulge in re-offending activities. I think the offenders after their release should be awarded better salaries that are above the current salary scales. This would ensure that the member of the society accord them respect and will help them catch up economically.
The other support initiatives that can be offered to the ex-offenders are the provision of lodging and accommodation arrangement, family support and drug and substance management support. Provision of proper accommodation ensures that the offenders have some home to start life in and prevent him from being in a life of solitude. Offering family support will ensure that the ex-prisoner has the right company and that he feels more accepted too.
Integrated throughcare programs
It has been noticed that the absence of adequate resources and the inadequate coordination between the the criminal justice system and social service systems has resulted to the prisoners being released to the community, without receiving the necessary support and assistance by the organizations and the government bodies. Therefore, a well-integrated program that incorporates the community is a necessity.
Engagement of the communities
The community as an immediate environment for the ex-prisoner has a major role to execute in the process of reintegration of the ex-prisoners. Several strategies have been employed to ensure effective participation of the community in this process. The Offender Reentry Mapping is one of the initiatives. It addresses the neighborhoods and family of the offender and individual needs of the offender (Brazzell 2007). The main aspects of this program are the development of diverse mechanisms of dissemination and the enlisting of the involvement and support of the stakeholder in the community.
Guidelines or Recommendations for Developing Effective Programs for Reintegration
If adherence to the principles of effective treatment during correction processes is observed, the approaches that are employed to address the varied risk factors facing offenders have high chances of thriving. The following considerations can be put in place to ensure development of effective intervention mechanisms of reintegration of offenders.
- The focus should be put on the specific challenges and target groups
- Only sound methods of assessing the needs of the offenders should be relied on.
- The offenders ought to be held responsible and accountable for their actions and choices.
- A reasonable balance should be maintained between control and surveillance
- The public safety priorities should be reflected upon.
- The community should be engaged in the planning process
- A robust system of evaluation should be implemented to enable evolution of the reintegration program for inmates.
The process of reintegration of the offenders has been fastened by the concern for the safety of the community. The efforts of reintegration as discussed above have capitalized in addressing the risk factors that confront the ex-offenders in the process of re-entry in the community that has encompassed the assistance in securing job opportunities and accommodation facilities. The success of the programs has, however, been subjected to questioning as they have not been so effective in facilitating the adaptation of the criminals. Therefore, to ensure proper delivery of reintegration services, various stakeholders should consider redesigning their strategies while taking into consideration the recommendations outlined above.
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