Why does it Happen?
March 24th 2015
University of Guelph-Humber
March 24 2015 Prisons are meant to be a place that an offenders atones for their actions, seeks to correct their wrong, and eventually, return to society as a changed individual ready to contribute. However, this is not always the case. In 2003, the recividism rate in Canada for non-violent crimes was 30%, and 14% for violent crimes which ultimately means 44% of federal offenders are reconvicted after release. (The Recidivism of Federal Offenders, 2003). This means almost 1 in every 2 offenders will return to jail. This naturally alludes to the fact that something is wrong and needs to be critically examined.
This statistic alone should be enough reason for Canadians to rise up to solving the problem. Recidivism not only affects the offender, but has a negative effect on society as well. Increased prison population often means increased taxes to be spent, and a lower level of safety amongst people. It also means a decrease in human capital; less people in the general population means less potential employees which obviously has a negative impact on society. One can conclude from the above mentioned points that critically analyzing the issue recidivism is extremely important.
It is important to understand what is being discussed when one speaks about the issue of reconviction. This is because crimes can range from minor to very serious and it is important to understand the implications of each situation. For the purpose of this paper, the research will examine the root causes of recidivism specifically amongst federal offenders due to the nature of the crimes and the sentencing that one is given.
In light of the above, it is clear to see that there are many root causes to recidivism in Canadian prisons. However, recidivism is primarily caused due to three major factors; education level achieved by offenders, health and well being issues faced by prisoners once released, and learned behaviour acquired through time spent in custody. It is important to note that these factors are not mutually exclusive from one another; two or more of these factors may lead to the same effect that ultimately increases recidivism. This is due to the fact that when examining any social phenomenon, overlap between different life situations is bound to occur. However, the fact remains that all of these reasons contribute to the increased percentage of reconvictions amongst federal offenders.
To begin, one can look at the effects of education on recidivism. Often, Canada is able to look at the United States to see the practicality of certain issues as it relates to its criminal justice system. This was seen for example, in recent news during the debate of introducing mandatory minimum sentences. Similarly, American studies have been done on the issue and present valuable information for Canada to consider. In the article, “The effect of College-based educational programs on Recidivism: Propensity Score Method” the argument of education being a method of reducing recidivism is looked at. Firstly, the author brings forth the idea that education can consist of many different factors. He quotes the teaching of religious text, or “moral education” to prisoners in the 19th century as a form as education which naturally led to more upright individuals (Clark, 2013). Although one may argue this evidence is anecdotal in nature, it still nonetheless leads to the first argument in favour of education playing a factor in recidivism; there are different forms of education. One may feel that since prisoners have access to secular knowledge within the prison system, the government has met the standard of education needed to reform a person. However, when there is no emphasis on other forms of education, such as arts, religion, and the like, individuals will still suffer from inadequate intellectual and spiritual gains,