Social Change in Action

COUN 6785: Social Change in Action:

Prevention, Consultation, and Advocacy

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Social Change Portfolio

Tammy Carter


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

Within the legal concept, the term recidivism refers to the tendency of an offender to recommit the crime they committed. A report by the California Department of Corrections, more than 65% of offenders released from the prison system end up returning to prison within three years (California Innocence Project, 2020). Additionally, 73% of the recidivist were found to have committed new crimes or violated their parole within the first year. The highest recidivism is seen among criminals who had earlier committed property crime. The California Department of Corrections states that these criminals have a higher likelihood of recidivism compared to others convicted of serious crimes (California Innocence Project, 2020). The rates have been shown to increase continually, with the estimates being at 62% failure in rehabilitation for the benefit of the ability of prisoners to get the right environment to learn and change (California Innocence Project, 2020).

Compared to the national statistics, California shows similar trends to that of the national rates/ statistics. A report by the Pew Center in April of 2011 showed the average national recidivism rate to be 43% (Agenyi, 2017). Another report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicated that the recidivism rate was 68% among a sample of 405,000 prisoners in 30 states with the duration of recidivism being three years after being released from prison. The rate increased to 77% within a period of five years. A bigger concern is that the national statistics indicates that 37% of all prisoners arrested within 5 years of release were taken back to prison within 6 months after their release (Agenyi, 2017). At the same time, by the end of the year more than half of the prisoners (57%) are often re-arrested.


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

Goal Statement: Develp a more stable societal culture that encourages, but also allows former convictsto re-enter the society.

Mentally, convicts who are in and out of prison are unable to survive in the society or assimilating into the society. At the same time, the society gets to develop a negative perspective of the prisoners with the fear that they can always revert to their crimes or even commit bigger crimes. As such, mentally, recidivism is affecting the balance within the society in terms of re-acceptance of anyone who was convicted of a crime and imprisoned. The rates of recidivism increase the negative perception of the society when welcoming back convicts released from prison since there is the fear they will repeat the same crime in six months if not within a year. The convicts are the most affected since the society starts painting a negative picture about them and their capability to survive in the society. Finding work becomes an issue, getting a good lifestyle becomes an issue, and they become unable to survive independently forcing them back into crime.

Economically, recidivism places significant burden on the economy due to the amount the government invests in the management of prisons. If rehabilitation cannot be efficient as projected the costs invested in the management of the correctional facilities is done twice. The costs of managing the process of incarceration, rehabilitation, medical care, and even vocational trainings within the correctional facilities are often part of the taxpayers’ contribution. By re-investing the same efforts and finance towards ensuring that, the convicted are catered for results in huge financial burdens in the economy. Recidivism also results in the reduction of the number of workforce available within an economy. Re-incarceration often results in a significant reduction in the number of skilled workers able to work on a normal shift. Reduction in the number of workers results in reduction of productivity and economic growth. At the same time, re-incarceration leads to significant reductions in performance levels. Significant contributors in the economy end up lagging behind due to low performance rates and worker burnouts.


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

One of the most significant risks of recidivism among offenders is substance abuse. Offenders who have become addicted during their incarceration or before incarceration are at a higher risk of relapsing even after being released from prison due to the ease in accessing the drugs within the society. The hardship in terms of getting a stable working environment, a stable earning, and decent job often increases the desire to relapse back to drugs as a way out. However, this is interconnected to family perception and values about prisoners. The society is skeptical about the re-entering of offenders into the society. The same perception is also adopted into the work environment leading to inability of employers to trust past offenders in their business or give them a chance to work in their organization.

Another significant risk of recidivism among past offenders is association with gangs or criminal activities. Gang members have shown high recidivism rates compared to non-gang affiliated past offenders. The association with gangs often places offenders at risk of being part of a criminal activity. Lack of a table societal setting that allows them to find the right support to remain stable in the first year after being released increases the possibilities of a past offender considering crime as a way out of their predicaments. Considering the ease in accessing finances and even association with people who do not judge among gangs, offenders easily associate with crime and gangs.


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

One of the theories that can be efficient in the management of recidivism in the society is theory of containment. According to Lilly, Cullen, and Ball (2018), the theory of containment refers to the evaluation of the relationship between personal and social controls. The theory considers there are various external social factors and internal qualities that insulate individuals from engaging in criminal activities even in situations where the ecological variables induce engagement in crime (Lilly, Cullen, & Ball, 2018). The theory is implemented as a barrier to helping offenders from doing the same crime again. The structures of the theory act as defense models to help protect the offender from being engaged in external pressures. The determination of the specific factors/ triggers to certain actions might work for the benefit of the offender since they can avoid the scenarios that might trigger recidivism.

The second theory to consider is the rational choice theory that considers that crimes are committed out of free will of the criminal. According to the rational choice theory, a criminal is responsible for their actions and the decision to commit a crime is dependent on their decisions rather than factors/ triggers (Newman & Clarke, 2016). A decision is dependent on the evaluation of choices and ramifications of the actions of an individual even before they make the decision. As such, when an individual is convicted of the crime, the theory considers that the actions of the individual are an evaluation of both the positives and negatives. The consequences of a decision are considered as deterrence that the offender should consider in either taking the action or not.


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

The African Americans are the most affected population that is affected by the issue of recidivism in America. The African American population is living in abject poverty or is lacking the necessary cultural support to thrive in the predefined society. Most of the African-American populations have to work more than the Hispanic Whites to make ends meet. The number of incarcerations among the African American population increases yearly with a significant percentage being within correctional facilities even for crimes they did not commit. Lack of a support system that allows them to remain stable, have a decent job, and have a support system from families and friends to help them when in need (Doherty, Cwick, Green, & Ensminger, 2016). The society already has a negative perception towards the minority groups, which is a foundation for the high number of hate crimes committed by African Americans.

The biggest factor leading to the increase in recidivism among the African Americans is racism. According to Lockwood, Nally, and Ho (2016), racial inequality has increased the possibilities of offenders being re-incarcerated due to racial profiling that in some cases are done due to personal biases. For ex-prisoners, re-entering the society with the available biases only complicates their rate of preventing possible recidivism. The lack of a stable environment to support the ex-offenders and give them a platform to develop themselves while assimilating into the society leads to recidivism and more sentencing. A community where racial inequality is high often leads to an increase in recidivism among the African American population. Among other African Americans, the perceived negativity in the society towards them is a factor that often leads to many of the population being incarcerated or held for small crimes. Forceful arrests and warrantless arrests are among the leading issues related to first time and even subsequent arrests of African American population.


[Social Change in Action: Recidivism in America]

One of the programs to consider for recidivism in the society is the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO) Program that was established with the focus of reducing the number of arrests within the society. Since its establishment, the program has not shown positive outcomes considering the program has not shown any form of adjustments in the number of recidivism among the population. One of the approaches in enhancing cultural relevance of the program is through establishing a community awareness program where the statistics of the issue are discussed and associated to the consequences of the issue in relation to the society. Discussing the issue on a public platform allows the society to be involved directly in the process, raise their concerns, their fears, and change their perspectives towards offenders.

Another approach to consider would be lobbying with the involvement of the local and state governments on some of the changes needed to improve on its effectiveness within the society. Establishing a lobbying program ensures that the awareness program is run continuously and the society is involved even if it is done in stages. The advantage is that there is proper planning, proper engagement of the key players and implementation of changes is attained efficiently. The engagement of the society and other third-parties helps increase the scope of the program and enhance the perspective integrated into finding the solution to the issue.


Agenyi, J. (2017, May 31). Recidivism in the United States – An Overview. Retrieved from Atlas Corps:

California Innocence Project. (2020). Recidivism Rates. Retrieved from California Innocence Project:

Doherty, E. E., Cwick, J. M., Green, K. M., & Ensminger, M. E. (2016). Examining the consequences of the “prevalent life events” of arrest and incarceration among an urban African-American cohort. Justice quarterly, 33(6), 970-999.

Lilly, J. R., Cullen, F. T., & Ball, R. A. (2018). Criminological theory: Context and consequences. Los Angeles: Sage publications.

Lockwood, S. K., Nally, J. M., & Ho, T. (2016). Race, education, employment, and recidivism among offenders in the United States: An exploration of complex issues in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 11(1), 57.

Newman, G., & Clarke, R. V. (2016). Rational choice and situational crime prevention: Theoretical foundations. New York, NY.: Routledge.

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