Policy-Analysis: Sustainable Reintegration of Convicted Criminals into the Society Sample

Paper Type: Research Samples
Level Of Education: Masters
Discpline: Law
Pages: 14

Executive Summary

The United States of America is one of the developed nations with the highest number of incarcerated individuals. Currently, there are over 2.3 million detainees in the country (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2018). The high incarceration rate has adverse impacts on the nation’s economy as significant resources are used to accommodate and rehabilitate the inmates. Moreover, the other problem facing the US criminal justice system includes high recidivism. Researches have shown that seventy per cent of the released prisoners are likely to be arrested within three years (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2018). Further, 50 per cent of the ex-prisoners are re-arrested for different offences. Therefore, it is evident that the correctional programs in the country are ineffective. The ex-prisoners encounter several challenges as they reintegrate into society. Most people are unwilling to welcome the released prisoners back to society. Consequently, the ex-prisoners struggle to find sustainable employment as well as places to live. Social stigma prompts prosocial peer rejection for the ex-prisoners. In some cases, the family members of these released prisoners are unwilling to accept them.  Therefore, most of the ex-inmates are drawn to crime as there are no programs in place to reintegrate them to society.  There is a federal program for funding the released prisoners to stabilize their life after serving the sentence. However, financial resources are inadequate and cannot meet their needs. Therefore, policy gaps in the correctional programs are the primary cause for high incarceration and recidivism rate in the country. 

The correctional programs in the US prisons do not address the root causes of crime. The primary objective of correction is to rehabilitate the inmates so that they can become socially acceptable members of society. However, most of the prisons are poorly equipped with rehabilitation resources. First, there is a considerable shortage of staffs, and the prisoners are not given adequate attention. Moreover, the correctional centres should train the inmates to acquire competent industrial skills that are required for employment. The training enables the inmates to become independent after serving their sentence.  However, due to prison congestion, most of the inmates are not adequately trained to acquire competency-based skills (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2018). Researches show that poverty is the leading cause of crime (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2018). A significant number of people engage in misconduct to earn a living. For instance, the burglars engage in theft because they lack sufficient income to take care of their needs. The government should combat poverty and unemployment to reduce crime. However, instead of undertaking proactive measure, the government pursues reactive actions against crime. It is imperative to change policy by focusing on how to prevent crime.  Racial disparity is also evident in US prisons. Blacks are six times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. The level of empowerment predicts the statistics. In the US, social minorities are drawn to crime compared to the affluent majority. There is a huge income disparity between blacks and whites in the country. Although the government has enacted affirmative actions to prevent employment discrimination, blacks are still disadvantaged.  Given that a high proportion of blacks in the country are poor, they are likely to engage in crime for survival. The government should consider improving its infrastructures to combat poverty, educate the youth, reduce prison congestion, and improve the rehabilitation program to address the social challenge. 

Introduction

Crime Policy

The gang policy in the US is ineffective as it has failed to reduce crime in the country. The prisons have also failed to rehabilitate the inmates due to inadequate funding.  The current gang policy involves charging all the suspected criminal defendants based on their actions. The US has strict laws that stipulate the charges for engaging in criminal activities. However, the government does not consider its social responsibility in reintegrating the convicts back to society. The prosecutors are also central players in the criminal justice systems.  They use evidence presented by the law enforcement officers to prefer charges against the suspected criminal defendant. The law does not set the guidelines for the social responsibilities of the prosecutors in protecting the defendant’s welfare.  According to the report by Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis (2015), most of the convicted criminals are charged with minor offences such as drunk driving. Nevertheless, the court still sentences those who are found guilty. Some defendants do not have the financial resources to hire competent attorneys. Consequently, they depended on the federal lawyers for representation in court. In some incidences, the defendants are not adequately represented in court due to budget constraints. Such uncertainties have increased the number of wrongly convicted inmates in the country. The social interactions between innocent and guilty inmates increase crime rates. The innocent inmates learn unethical behaviours from their peers in jail, thereby embracing crime. 

Some inmates stay in jail for an extended period as they wait for their verdict. Although all suspected criminals have the right to be released on bond, some of them do not have the required cash. Consequently, they are incarcerated for an extended period as the investigations are carried out. A significant number of innocent civilians have been jailed for several months as they await trial. There are no mechanisms for releasing the defendants if they do not provide the cash bails. Therefore, it is evident that disadvantaged individuals are the most affected by the criminal justice system.  The jailed suspects tend to acquire deviant behaviors and resentment against the government authorities as they are unfairly treated. These inmates are likely to engage in crime to compensate for unfair treatment. According to the report by Schmalleger, Donaldson, Kashiwahara, Koppal, Chase, Brown, & Marash, D. (2014), the living conditions in most jails prompt the inmates to develop a gang mentality. The innocent inmates are bullies, and gang violence is prevalent. Jails are made up of a wide range of inmates. The court has not convicted a majority of them. Thus, they are either awaiting their judgment or formal release.  However, some of the inmates in jails have been convicted. However, they are pending prison allocation. According to the studies by Cole, Smith, & DeJong (2018), some inmates stay in prison for up to 2 years. The prisons cannot accommodate the huge volume of inmates. Moreover, planning for the social needs of the inmates is difficult as the number of detainees jeep fluctuating. Furthermore, there are no social workers or counselors in the jails. Consequently, the inmates embrace deviant behaviors as a result of peer influence in the jails. 

How the gang Policy Contributes to Racial, Ethnic, and Class Disparities

It is evident that the gang policy in the US favors social majorities and does not consider the needs of the poor.  The affluent suspects have the financial resources to pay for the cash bails when they are arrested. Moreover, they have sufficient financial resources to hire competent lawyers who represent them in court. Conversely, the poor cannot afford either the lawyers or the cash bail. Therefore, they are detained in jail as they await their verdict.  Secondly, the government does not undertake proactive measures to prevent crime. The primary cause of gang violence includes poverty and unemployment. According to the report by Ziedenberg (2016), a significant number of gangs are concentrated in poor neighborhoods.  These criminals engage in unethical activities for a living as they are unable to earn employment.  The unemployment and poverty index among social minorities such as blacks is high.  Whites dominate most of the enterprises in the country. Consequently, corporate leaders tend to develop policies that favor whites. Most capitalists in the country are whites while the low-income laborers and the unemployed are the blacks. As the cost of living increase, the minimum wages cannot sustain the public needs. Therefore, social minorities engage in unethical activities such as prostitution, human sex trafficking, burglary, and theft for survivals. Moreover, social suffering also prompts social minorities to participate in drug and substance abuse. Drug and substance abuse is one of the significant factors that predict criminal tendencies among blacks. 

The other problem associated with the gang policy includes poor rehabilitation service. The prisons do not have sufficient social workers and counselors to rehabilitate the inmates. Most prisons are highly congested, and the correctional staffs strain to meet their work objectives. Poor remuneration structure in the correctional departments demoralizes the employees (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). Consequently, the rate of employee turnover in the correctional departments is high. Thus, the inmates do not receive adequate attention from the social workers as most of them are overworked and demoralized. 

Evidence on the Policy Effectiveness

The employees in the correctional department are demoralized as they are not appraised based on their merit. Unlike other organizations which use the management by the objective approach, the penitentiary department used promotion by seniority. This appraisal system demoralizes the young and competent staffs who are highly productive. Consequently, demoralized employees have a low level of job satisfaction. Also, the studies by Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis (2015) shows that demotivated employees are in the correctional centers are unproductive compared to the self-driven employees.  Given that a majority of the social workers and correctional staffs are unhappy with their employment, they are unwilling to go an extra mile to address the inmates’ needs. The report by Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis (2015), shows that a significant number of prisoners are released before undergoing rehabilitation. Some unethical employees collaborate with the inmates to smuggle contraband goods in prisons. 

The wrong classification of employees is the other significant problem in incarceration centers. Under an ideal situation, the case managers are supposed to study the convicts’ charges and then recommend suitable rehabilitation programs based on their past criminal records.  However, inadequate resources impede the process. Currently, nearly all prions are congested despite the high conviction rates that occur daily. Therefore, the case managers have limited options and often decide to place the convicts in unsuitable prisons due to lack of resources.  The studies by Agozino (2018) have shown that prison congestion prompts a huge number of convicted inmates to be detained in jail. However, the conditions in jails are unbearable as they cannot address the diverse inmates’ needs. For instance, most jails do not have social workers and counselors. Consequently, the inmates are not reformed while incarcerated in jails. Instead, they acquire deviant behaviors through socializing with other criminals. The report by Watson, Washington, & Stepteau-Watson (2015) indicates that the conditions in both jails and prisons encourage the inmates to develop a criminal mindset instead of reforming. For instance, it is evident that bullying and gang violence is prevalent in most prisons. Some of the prisoners have external networks that they use to organize crime outside the prison and also smuggle contraband goods. There are several reported cases in which the inmates assault their peers and correctional staffs. 

The US prisons have not developed effective correctional programs for the mentally disturbed inmates. According to the report by LaFree (2018), the mentally disturbed inmates are confined in cells for about 22 to 24 hours a day. Few mental health clinics are equipped with resources to rehabilitate the inmates.  In the United States of America, the mentally disturbed inmates survive longer prison sentences due to engagement in deviant behaviors.  A significant number of inmates are violent and tend to assault their peers as well as the workers. Consequently, the prisons decide to lock them up for their entire sentence.  Confining the inmates in cell exacerbates their mental illness as they are not granted the opportunity to interact with counselors as well as their peers. Moreover, the studies by Miller (2018) have shown that the mentally disturbed inmates in the US are not granted preferential treatment. Instead, they are evaluated using the same rubric as their healthy counterparts. Whenever a mentally disturbed inmate engages in violent behavior, their sentence terms are extended. However, the correctional departments do not undertake remedial actions to salvage their situation. Increased sentence terms for the mentally disturbed inmates are one of the factors that increase prison congestion in the US. 

Correctional centers intensify social inequalities in the country by ruining the life of the subaltern groups. In the US, the highest proportions of the inmates are the poor and other social minorities such as immigrants, and black Americans.  People with criminal records struggle to earn employment. Most organizations evaluate the criminal background of the prospective candidates before granting them employment.  Thus, society views the ex-inmates as antisocial members of the community who should not be reintegrated. Lack of employment among the ex-prisoners is one of the significant factors that hinder sustainable reintegration into society (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). The high recidivism rate is caused by the inability of the released prisoners to find a sustainable means of livelihood. During incarceration, the inmates forego some of their economic empowerment ventures such as businesses. Moreover, incarcerated teens are likely to drop out of school or perform poorly, thereby compromising their future life. 

The training programs in prisoners do not empower the inmates to be economically viable in the society. In the current competitive job market, employers look for individuals with competency-based skills.  Thus, competitive candidates should have employable skills that will enable the firm to meet the dynamic consumer needs (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). However, most prions equip the inmates with basic mechanical skills that may not be applicable in advanced firms. Some of the competitive skills that are required in the industry include project management, computer programming, enterprise management, and production planning and control. Nevertheless, the released inmates do not have these skills as a majority of them lack post-secondary academic qualification. 

The small scale and medium enterprises are also unwilling to absorb the ex-inmates as they evaluate their criminal background. Lack of employment and the high cost of living prompts the released prisoners to engage in extralegal means of earning a living. The government has not implemented sufficient policies to ensure that the released prisoners gain employment.  The federal fund that the inmates receive after their release is also insufficient (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). The resources may not sustain the inmates for the rest of their lives.  Moreover, some inmates have argued that the fund cannot be used to stabilize their lives. Some of the inmates who try to open their businesses are unable to operate beyond the first year. 

Prosocial-peer rejection is the other significant challenge associated with the crime policy. The government has not created sufficient public awareness of the need to reintegrate the released prisoners to society.  Most family members and friends reject the released inmates and are unwilling to accept them back (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). Social rejection exacerbates the ex-prisoners problems as some of them lack access to essential amenities such as shelter. 

Policy Option and Research

Based on the analysis of the gang policy in the US, it is evident that the current approach has several shortcomings. The policy lacks sustainable reintegration of released inmates into the society, resulting in increased recidivism rate. The rehabilitation programs are ineffective, and the mentally disturbed prisoners are not treated. Moreover, there are no effective programs to prevent crime as the government focuses on reactive measures. The correctional staffs are poorly motivated, thereby causing high rates of employee turnover (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). The prison department is underfunded, thereby disabling the correctional crews to meet their objectives. Prison congestion increases employees’ workloads. Furthermore, the government does not have sufficient resources to increase the capacity of the available detention centers. Although the number of convicted criminals continues to rise, the government has not expanded the available rehabilitation and correctional centers. The inmates are not equipped with employable skills that can guarantee them employment upon their release. 

The current gang policy does not address the root cause of crime as the income disparity between the blacks and whites is high.  Given that poverty and unemployment are among the primary causes of crime, social minorities such as blacks, immigrants, and the poor are likely to be arrested. Thus, one of the sustainable solutions to crime includes creating sustainable employment opportunities for low-class citizens. The US has an advanced economy in which the demand for skilled employees is high while that for uneducated laborers is low (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). The government should diversify the economy to empower social minorities. By empowering social minorities such as blacks, the rate of crime will significantly reduce, and the government will save the resources used to incarcerate the inmates.

The whites dominate all the economic sectors of the US economy. Most of the capitalists in the nation are whites. Capitalism has increased racial disparity in the country. Those who own the factors of production generate significant income at the expense of laborers. As the cost of living continues to increase, the poor working classes who receive minimum wages are unable to meet their basic needs such as rent, food, and healthcare. Thus, they are drawn to engage in criminal activities such a theft, corruption, drug trafficking and prostitution to earn a living. The high incarceration rates among blacks are attributed to poverty. According to the report by Cole, Smith, & DeJong (2016), the proportion of incarcerated blacks is six times that of their white counterparts. Moreover, black women are twice more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. Despite poor economic conditions, law enforcement agencies have negatively profiled blacks. Therefore, a black person is likely to be arrested in the country compared to a white when they commit similar offenses.  The police officers should be trained on the need for socially responsive law enforcement measures that consider the diverse public’s diverse needs. 

Prison Overcrowding

Lack of social considerations in gang policies has led to prison overcrowding in the nation. Most states still use retrogressive sentencing policies in which criminal defendants are charges for several decades despite engaging in minor crimes such as drug offenses. Illegal immigration into the country has also increased prison overcrowding. According to the report by Drakulich, & Kirk (2016), the Central American Migrant Caravans prefer to stay in the US jails than to be deported back to their home country.  Consequently, thousands of the migrants cross the US-Mexico border and surrender themselves to the US border forces. Although the government has enacted measures to combat illegal border cross, the number of asylum seekers have continued to rise in the country. However, some of the migrant caravans have significant criminal records in their home countries. Consequently, they are likely to engage in criminal activities in the country. The report by Drakulich, & Kirk (2016) has indicated that a majority of the human sex traffickers in the country are immigrants. Most of the asylum seekers migrate to the US in search of better employment opportunities. However, since most of them do not possess employable skills, they engage in criminal activities for a living. The report by Drakulich, & Kirk (2016) has shown that migrants constitute a significant proportion of the inmates in the country.  The government has recently reported that the prison population has stabilized since 2015. However, the studies by Wallace (2018) indicate that “inmates being released are most often those who pose the lowest threat to society, but the number of inmates considered to be the most dangerous tends to remain consistent.” Maximum security facilities that can adequately detainee the dangerous criminals are limited. Constructing the maximum detention facilities is expensive. Therefore, the available facilities are strained by the overcrowded inmates.

Funding Gaps

Prisons are one of the underfunded government departments in the US. Moreover, legislators often consider correctional services as the primary target for budget cuts. Although the US economy has significantly grown over the past decade, the proportion of the government’s budget to prisons has consistently declined. According to the report by Wallace (2018), “it is challenging to make the argument in our society that adequate funding to run prisons is as important as the education of our children or support for the needy.” Most policymakers prioritize schools over the prisons. According to them, it is better to invest the government’s resources on educating the youths rather than rehabilitating the criminals (Zajac, Sheidow, & Davis, 2015). Therefore, funding disparity exacerbates the social problems in the correctional centers. Prisons are not only expensive to construct, but also to maintain. 

Staff Safety and Inmate Violence

Violent behaviors among the inmates indicate the inefficiencies in the contemporary correctional programs. According to the report by Wallace (2018), “Inmate violence, especially among the more dangerous segments of the prison population, poses an issue for both other inmates and staff.” Lack of specialized attention to the inmates' needs prompts violence among incarcerated individuals. 

Advancements in technology 

Despite the recent advancements in technology, correctional departments still rely on traditional systems. According to Wallace (2018), “ If technological advances were leveraged to benefit facility operations and staff safety, that viewpoint would be accurate; however, limited funding often results in corrections being unable to spend money on technology that would benefit facilities and staff.” Inmates apply the improved technologies to smuggle contraband goods into the prisons. 

Staff Retention

Most of the correctional staffs do not have sufficient incentives to achieve their objectives. Wallace (2018) asserts that, “As a correctional employee, how often do you question why you continue to work in a field that exposes you to the most dangerous members of our society; struggles to fund the facilities designed to house these individuals; and requires you to remain constantly vigilant against threats to your safety?” Consequently, most employees seek alternative employment offers, thereby increasing the rate of employee turnover. 

Based on the literature review on gang policy in the US, it is apparent that the system needs significant changes to reduce prison congestion and mass incarceration of social minorities such as blacks and immigrants. High recidivism is a considerable challenge in the criminal justice system. The released criminals are likely to be rearrested as they are not reintegrated back to society. The prison conditions worsen the inmates’ behaviors. Consequently, they are released after acquiring other unethical attributes from the prison. Some of the factors that cause high recidivism include prison overcrowding, funding gaps, inmate violence, and staff safety, technology limits, and poor employee retention. The government can resolve the problem of mass incarceration by changing gang policies to consider the needs of social minorities. For instance, the government should combat poverty by increasing the number of employment opportunities in the country. 

Policy Recommendations

The government can address the social disparity in the correctional centers by empowering the subaltern groups. For instance, the government should identify the youths who are likely to engage in crime as a result of their social background and empower them. There are various ways of empowering social minorities. First, the government should encourage social capitalism in which the affluent entrepreneurs address the needs of the local community members.  All enterprises should engage in corporate social responsibility initiatives that empower social minorities. For instance, organizations should be compelled to embrace diversity in their staffs. The racial minorities such as the blacks should be given the equal opportunity to work in the multinational enterprises as their white counterparts. The government can also offer free vocational training and career counseling for disadvantaged social minorities who are likely to engage in crime. By empowering the minorities, the government will significantly reduce crime rates in the country. Moreover, the government should increase prison funding to improve rehabilitation services. The funds should expand the prison facilities to reduce congestion. Furthermore, the number of correctional staffs should be increased to reduce their workloads as well as improve their level of job satisfaction. 

 

References

Agozino, B. (2018). Black Women and the Criminal Justice System: Towards the Decolonisation of Victimisation. Routledge.

Chen, A., & Gill, J. (2015). Unaccompanied children and the US immigration system: challenges and reforms. Journal of International Affairs, 68(2), 115.

Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2016). Criminal justice in America. Nelson Education.

Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2018). The American system of criminal justice. Cengage Learning.

Drakulich, K. M., & Kirk, E. M. (2016). Public opinion and criminal justice reform. Criminology & Pub. Pol'y, 15, 171.

LaFree, G. (2018). Losing legitimacy: Street crime and the decline of social institutions in America. Routledge.

Lang, J. (2016). What is a community court? How the model is being adapted across the United States.

Miller, R. R. (2018). Various implications of the “race to incarcerate” on incarcerated African American men and their families. In Impacts of incarceration on the African American family (pp. 3-16). Routledge.

Schmalleger, F., Donaldson, S., Kashiwahara, K., Koppal, T., Chase, S., Brown, A., ... & Marash, D. (2014). Criminal justice today. Prentice Hall.

Wallace, R. (2018). “5 of the biggest challenges facing corrections in 2019”. Retrieved from: https://www.correctionsone.com/2018-review/articles/481938187-5-of-the-biggest-challenges-facing-corrections-in-2019/

Watson, J., Washington, G., & Stepteau-Watson, D. (2015). Umoja: A culturally specific approach to mentoring young African American males. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 32(1), 81-90.

Wood, W. R., & Suzuki, M. (2016). Four challenges in the future of restorative justice. Victims & Offenders, 11(1), 149-172.

Zajac, K., Sheidow, A. J., & Davis, M. (2015). Juvenile justice, mental health, and the transition to adulthood: A review of service system involvement and unmet needs in the US. Children and youth services review, 56, 139-148.

Ziedenberg, J. (2016). You're an adult now: Youth in adult criminal justice systems.

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