I believe that correctional programs work for some people and not for others. Many persons that enter into correctional programs learn how to adjust with the community that they are placed into. It’s like learning how to survive in a new territory. Many people do not know what to expect upon their arrival to the new destination. Although corrective measures are needed, many people report as not ever receiving the help that they need. This paper focuses on recidivism rates and also quality and effective treatment obtained from correctional facilities while incarcerated. Therefore, several studies will be examined to determine whether correctional system quality really matters.
This paper first reports on the initial findings of a research project that examined the life experiences of women in Southeast Queensland prisons (Australia), both prior to prison and during their imprisonment. One hundred women completed questionnaires that solicited their views and feelings about their sentence, their children, their family concerns, their living arrangements before prison, educational experiences, employment status, financial survival prior to prison, circumstances that led to imprisonment, recidivism, their views on what would help them not to re-offend, aspects that prison has and has not changed, support received in prison, their experience of bullying in prison, drug and alcohol use prior to prison and while in prison, their relationships with prison staff, experiences of abuse throughout their lives, suicide and self-harm experiences, and their comments to prison and corrections policymakers and managers. The women who participated in the study had been incarcerated from 3 months to 16 years, and their average sentence was 26 months. Overall, the women's prison experiences are negative, and they continue to self-medicate their previous abuse experiences and the present abuses in prison through continued drug use and self-harm. The women continue to share needles that expose them to serious medical conditions that are detrimental to their health. The women's experience with prison staff is negative. Women feel powerless within prison processes, especially in relation to sentence management practices. These women consider that prison is but one more experience of abuse, rather than a vehicle for confronting and receiving treatment for the trauma and negative coping behaviors that led to their offending (Kilroy, 2000).
Because the criminal justice system, universally, has such a high rate of return inmates, there appears to be something wrong with the way this system has been established. There needs to be a better system of incarceration or a way to deal with criminals on a more individual and case by case basis. A report released recently by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that the correctional population reached a new high in this country with almost 6.9 million offenders under correctional control at the end of 2003 (Glaze, 2004). Although this figure only represented a 2% increase from the previous year, it capped a 50% increase in the correctional population since 1990. The prison population experienced the greatest increase during this time period (76%), but probation and parole populations grew as well (44% and 37%, respectively) (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). This growth in offender populations under community supervision, coupled with reductions in resources available for community-based correctional agencies, causes concern. Research on recidivism in probation samples indicates recidivism rates as high as 65% (Petersilia, 1985). Although other studies indicate much lower recidivism rates (e.g., et al., 1987; Vito, 1986), a national sample from 1986 indicates that 62% of the sample had a disciplinary hearing for a violation of probation or were rearrested for another