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Across state correctional systems, there are more than 700,000 offenders released back into society annually (Duncan, Berry, & Keenan, 2009). Statistically, four out of 10 will return to prison within three years of their release. The issue, recidivism, is a rapidly growing problem. Recidivism is a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior and is specifically related to repeated relapse into criminal or delinquent habits (Recidivism, n.d.). As this condition is a learned behavior and one of the largest contributors to rising crime rates, providing avenues to prevent and reduce this matter is a necessity. Recidivism can be greatly reduced among the inmates released back into society by allowing the opportunity of education and acquiring job skills. Upon release from incarceration back into society, an offender needs to be a productive member of the community. An education is key if they are to achieve this and not return to the revolving door of prison. A 2006 study by the MTC Institute and Correctional Education Association did a study on inmates that spanned across three different state correctional facilities. The research followed the released offenders for three years and monitored those who participated in educational programs and those who did not. By providing an education and job skill training to these individuals, there was a 10-30% reduction in recidivism. The results of released offenders acquiring job skills or education proved they were less likely to return to incarceration (Steurer & Smith, 2003). Utah prison officials said they have reduced recidivism rates by 9% by offering educational courses, cognitive living skills, and support (St Gerard, 2004). The study was over an 18-month period and again demonstrated how offering educational programs to the inmates diminishes recidivism. Educational programs aided in the productive return to society for these individuals. It is typical for an offender to return to prison because they do not have the skills to be successful in the community. Education and job skill training permits the offender to transition back into society and acclimate to the workforce. Furthermore, by reducing recidivism rates with education, tax dollars are saved. As a released offender myself, I understand the barriers faced as a convicted felon and the difficulties of finding a job. Upon my release from prison the first time, I fell victim to recidivism. Like many other offenders, I re-entered back into society without an education and struggled to find a job. With the economy in less than desirable shape, no education, and a felony on my record, employment seemed impossible to achieve. Just as a statistic, I went back to prison. Learning from this mistake, I took full advantage of the educational programs offered and put myself through school at a community college located within the prison with scholarships received for my above average GPA. By the time my release date arrived, I had obtained my AA Degree in Computer Science and Technology. With these credentials I entered the workforce with lesser of a challenge and obtained employment. Now I am continuing my education with financial help from my employer. As a result, my education has allowed me to be a productive member of my community, have a career, and continue my education with financial help from my employer. Criminal activity is on the upsurge and recidivism is a huge contributor to these rising numbers. It is vital steps are taken to reduce these numbers. Every year millions of dollars is spent to house offenders and fund correctional systems. As research has validated, providing educational programs and job skill training to inmates will reduce recidivism. With this reduction, offenders have the opportunity to re-enter the community and become a productive member of society. Additionally, they will have the education and job skills to go into the job market. Respectively, it is a win win situation by reducing recidivism, lowering crime rates, saving tax dollars, and educating people.
Contributed by DeAnn McGrew