Criminal statistics worldwide indicate a concerning rate of repeated imprisonment, especially among those offenders who were released within a year before new arrest. There is an opinion that a number of physiological factors influence the propensity for illegal activity for ex-prisoners. Additionally, the social environment usually promotes consistent negative emotions which result in an unstable mental state. With the lack of social support and growing outer pressure, most offenders fail to adapt to normal life after long prison sentences. The temptation to relapse and proceed with criminal behavior, however, grows rapidly and is extremely difficult to resist. This paper will prove that successful re-entries are almost impossible due to multiple social and cultural barriers impeding newly released prisoners’ return to normal life.
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To begin with, there is an established strategy of re-entering society after long-term imprisonment. Durnescu (2018) observed it and identified five stages: prerelease-anticipation, recovery, reunion, activation, consolidation, and relapse, which would allow ex-prisoners to become fully functioning members of society again. Although theoretically, a clear strategy and outer monitoring can ensure one will settle down and begin a new career, this path has a lot of weak points and can be easily interrupted.
According to Durnescu (2018), one of the most common obstacles met after release is temptation. While being in a somewhat euphoric state of mind, criminals feel the desire to steal again, in order to resolve their financial issues (Durnescu, 2018). If one succumbs to this compulsive urge, all of his rehabilitation progress would be gone. With this in mind, it is clear that the re-entry process is extremely fragile, and even small interruptions can lead criminals to failure.
Another significant issue to consider is the detachment from social life, which makes ex-prisoners vulnerable to their negative emotions. During the long period of imprisonment, people are usually isolated as they do not have access to social networks, news, or media. A rapid return to them would naturally cause a lot of stress and anxiety. When some offenders have wider social circles and can shortly begin searching for jobs or friends through social media, others with no resources «feel trapped into a lifestyle of crime» (Durnescu, 2018, 2211). A dramatic introduction to the fast and complicated reality brings newly released criminals fear and hopelessness.
They begin to feel that relapse is the only possible way to cope with the struggles of their new lives (Durnescu, 2018). This evidence allows one to conclude that the social and media environment directly influences criminals’ behavior and often pushes them to return to illegal actions.
There is one more crucial factor in the process of rehabilitation for those who survived long prison terms – informal social support. It is expressed through special psychological programs or simple interpersonal communication, and it noticeably changes depending on the person’s gender. Pettus-Davis et al.’s (2018) study has proved that women receive significantly more positive support from their parents, families, and friends than men.
Negative social support often aimed at male offenders appeared to be one of the risk factors driving them to relapse and rearrest (Pettus-Davis et al., 2018). Apart from the direct judgment that causes anger and irritation, negative support also adds to the hopeless state discussed in the previous paragraph. Positive support, in its turn, contributes to the faster establishment of social connections and intimate relationships. As it can be seen, informal communication can have both positive and negative effects on ex-criminals, and it often provokes relapse, especially for men.
as little as 3 hours
Not only gender differences, but other background details have been noticed to influence prisoners’ adaptation plans, and those are age, race, and relationship status. In Durnescu’s (2018) paper, there was noticeably more progress made by people with families than by single individuals. Some family traditions, such as intimate gatherings, serve as distractions and promote law-abiding behavior, while isolation only contributes to maintaining the same prison routine and preserving a criminal worldview. Also, the additional observations from Pettus-Davis et al.’s (2018) show that people of color, as well as older people, receive positive support more often than their younger white counterparts. It is often perceived as natural to act judgementally towards young offenders and not deplore their time in prison.
However, this kind of attitude very often adds up to their urge for new crimes. Despite all of those background factors being subtly, they are definitely able to shape the rehabilitation process towards either full recovery or relapse.
To summarize, it appears that there are a concerning number of barriers to ex-prisoners’ path towards adaptation. The stages on the way to complete re-establishment in society are complicated and can easily be interrupted. Also, detachment from social life, and the media causes anxiety and leaves offenders with the feeling of hopeless fear. The equally important factor of informal support through communication is often insufficient due to the gender, race, age, and relationship status of prisoners. Since male criminals, white, and young people who are lacking social contacts often get less encouraged to a law-abiding lifestyle, they become prone to repeating crimes.
All those factors combined make it common for newly released offenders to relapse, return to custody and never fully adapt to society. Evidently, rehabilitation is a complicated process from a psychological perspective, and it needs to get more attention.
Durnescu, I. (2018). The five stages of prisoner reentry: Toward a process theory. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(8), 2195-2215. Web.
Pettus-Davis, C., Veeh, C. A., Davis, M., & Tripodi, S. (2018). Gender differences in experiences of social support among men and women releasing from prison. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 35(9), 1161-1182. Web.