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Offender Rehabilitation and Reintegration

Introduction

The current expansive imprisonment policies led to the mass incarceration of criminals in the United States. Due to the criminalization of illegal drug use and possession, followed by lengthy prison sanctions, the number of incarcerated people increased dramatically, which caused a significant impact on society. The US criminal justice system currently locks up more people per capita than any other nation, with a rate of 698 per 100,000 residents and more than 2.3 million people overall (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020). The mass incarceration combined with several challenges associated with the offender reentry indicated the need for change in the reentry process to ensure successful ex-offender reintegration.

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A significant part of the challenges associated with offenders’ reentry into the United States is sourced from the current imprisonment policies and the overall approach to the punishment system. Some even express that the challenges that ex-offenders face after serving time in prison are an extension of their punishment. In several cases, it may seem that challenges from imprisonment policies are designed to prevent the ex-offenders from thriving and push them back to committing a crime. Among the current US policies and programs, only a few positively impact the ex-offender’s return to the community after release from prison.

The Barriers to and Drivers of Successful Offender Reintegration and Rehabilitation

The majority of barriers experienced by ex-offenders reentering society could be divided into separate categories, including employment, family connections, and collateral consequences. Although there is a chance for an individual to gain work experience inside prison, employers are mainly interested in hiring ex-offenders that did not commit violent or drug-related crimes. The current policies and initiatives focus on providing incarcerated individuals an opportunity to access higher education to increase their chances of employment and successful reentry outcomes.

The family connections category includes the issues that touch on the subject of providing consistent contact with the family during sentence time. Statistics show that reentering offenders who share a deep connection with their families tend to show lower recidivism rates (Ames, 2019). However, the prison presents many obstacles to the constant family connections through scarce information on visiting procedures, difficulties in scheduling visits for families, and visiting areas unsuitable for children’s visits.

Collateral consequences include various legal restrictions not related to the crime itself and applied to ex-offenders only after their release from prison. Strict housing policies and rental housing associations make it harder to secure an apartment for most individuals leaving prison, resulting in homelessness. Public housing does not ban former inmates from public housing, but housing administrators frequently think that the law required them to turn down applications from ex-offenders. Each state needs to utilize more programs and initiatives like Prison University Project, ‘The ban the Box campaign, and ReEntry Rehabilitation services to drive successful offender reintegration and rehabilitation from drug and alcohol use.

The Interrelated Effects of Offender Reentry

The outcome of offender reentry influences communities and public safety, and the population’s health, families, and individuals. Successful reentry influences public safety through a reduced level of recidivism. As mentioned previously, most recidivism crimes happen due to limited opportunities for ex-offenders in employment and housing areas. Successful implementation of the reentry process with thorough guidance from the government in the first months after prison release could positively influence the reintegration process.

Moreover, as job opportunities for former inmates mainly consist of low-paying jobs with low-education work, it reduces their access to healthcare services, affecting the population’s health status. Statistics show a high death rate among recently released former inmates, especially older reentry veterans, from suicide attempts, drug overdose, and accidental injuries (Barry et al., 2018). In terms of offender reentry influencing the families, improved conditions for the constant connection of the inmates to their families during the sentence could increase the chances for a successful outcome of reentry. According to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (2019), more than 50% of incarcerated adults have one or more children of minor age. Due to prison policies and insufficient conditions for family visits, the inmates could miss significant events in the life of their children. Combined with limited opportunities for consistent connections, it could cause conflicts within the family.

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The Concepts of Reintegration and Desistance from Crime

The theme of reintegration of ex-prisoners became relevant at the beginning of 21 century due to concerns about drastically increased prison populations in most countries. The issues of reintegration and recidivism were covered starting from the mid-20th century. However, the challenges of the reentry process became known around 2006 through international research (Ganapathy, 2018). The research proved that the absence of housing, material deprivations, absence of marketable skills presented obstacles to a successful reentry process and served as a critique for the mass incarceration movement (Ganapathy, 2018). Among the concepts of reintegration, the most advanced is the RNR model, introduced by Andrews and Bonta, and the principle of normalization was achieved through the Woolf inquiry.

The RNR model presents a list of principles that helps to indicate factors of effective treatment of offenders and considers their age, history of substance abuse, and criminal history. The model mainly focuses on the cognitive and emotional aspects of the offender being the reason for their offending and states that rendering those aspects ensures the successful reintegration of an individual. On the other hand, the principle of normalization advocates for prison being consistent with the outside world and prison conditions being approximate to life outside the prison. The principle of normalization lies at the roots of the Scandinavian exceptionalism approach (Ganapathy, 2018). According to the approach, the main goal of the criminal system is not to punish the offender but to provide correctional treatment and return the offender to full membership in society. Both the RNR model and normalization principle imply lowered rates of recidivism and a higher number of successful reentries.

Applying Biblical Principles to the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders

Religion is one of the main contributors to the support of offenders’ reentry. Many of the characters experienced imprisonment to a certain extent in the Bible, and even Jesus himself was arrested, executed, and imprisoned. Both apostles Paul and John were repeatedly imprisoned and set free, but that did not stop them from following God. However, in biblical times imprisonment was more of an instrument of oppression than an instrument of justice.

In Bible, the prison presents a place of suffering. The religious aspect determines that criminals need punishments, and the pain of being in prison serves as punishment. As prison in Bible serves as a metaphor for the people suffering from injustice, God wanted to set the prisoners free from their sins and return them their freedom and dignity (Luke, 4:16-20). Applying Biblical principles to the discussion of rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders indicates that once the prisoners get their punishments, through the suffering, they are cleansed from sin and could be freed eventually.

References

Ames, B. (2019). NIJ-funded research examines what works for successful reentry. National Institute of Justice. Web.

Barry, L. C., Steffens, D. C., Covinsky, K. E., Conwell, Y., Li, Y., & Byers, A. L. (2018). Increased risk of suicide attempts and unintended death among those transitioning from prison to community in later life. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry, 26(11), 1165–1174. Web.

Ganapathy, N. (2018). Rehabilitation, reintegration and recidivism: a theoretical and methodological reflection. Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development, 1–14. Web.

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NCSL. (2019). Child Support and Incarceration. NCSL. Web.

Sawyer, W. & Wagner, P. Mass incarceration: The whole pie 2020. Prison Policy. Web.

The Holy Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (1817). J. Butterworth and son.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "Offender Rehabilitation and Reintegration." January 24, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/offender-rehabilitation-and-reintegration/.

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