Recidivism In American Prisons

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Recidivism in American Prisons

Prisons are seen as being one of the most severe sanctions that the criminal justice system can impose on an individual, second only to capital punishment. Imprisonment inflicts both direct and indirect harms on individuals, such as the loss of freedom, employment, and relationships as well as much psychological harm.

Early scholarly studies of prisons noted that there was not just a formal organization inside prisons, but an informal organization that included a distinct inmate subculture. Theorists first proposed the deprivation model, which contended that inmate behavior stemmed from the conditions of confinement. In response to this theory, John Irwin and Donald R. Cressey set forth an alternative explanation—the importation model. This model suggested that inmate behavior is a reflection of attitudes and behaviors already possessed by offenders when they enter prison.

From 1930 to 1972, the United States experienced a relatively stable incarceration rate that hovered between 93 and 137 inmates per 100,000 individuals in the population (Blumstein & Beck, pp.17). However, since the early 1970s, the United States has been in an era of mass incarceration, with currently more than 1.6 million Americans serving time in a state or federal prison (West & Sabol, pp.129). If one adds to this the more than 785,000 individuals incarcerated in local jails, the number of people currently behind bars is a staggering 2.3 million people with the figure rising each successive year. This sanction has become so pronounced that since 1972, there has been an unprecedented 600 percent increase in the number of individuals locked up, with more people currently incarcerated than working at both McDonald's and Wal-Mart combined worldwide (Nellis & King, pp.27). Notably, this massive explosion in the inmate population has been a uniquely American phenomenon making the United States the largest incarcerator in the world with an imprisonment ...
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