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Essay on Economics of Recidivism

5 pages
1298 words
Vanderbilt University
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In recent times, the justice department has experienced repeated activities of criminal cases among former felons who have already passed through correctional facilities already. According to Mitchell et al., (2017), this is referred to as "Recidivism," a tendency that a convicted criminals are likely to commit an offense again. Additionally, it also refers to a given percentage of criminals who were earlier on convicted and have been recently re-arrested. Therefore, this term can be used in economics to explain a given tendency or even a relapse in a past state or even a previous condition (Mitchell et al., 2017). Economics of recidivism, therefore, comes into play in that economic incentive that is applied to ex-felons eventually influence the rate of their re-arrest. The point of the matter is, ex-felons commit offenses again out of intellectual and economic needs. As such, this paper explains economic recidivism using three opinions which are the Social construct, Social conflict and, symbolic interactions.

Studies show that most felons are driven by the need to meet one's economic needs. As Mitchell et al., (2017) suggests, this behavior largely influences the likelihood of a criminal getting involved in crime again and thus raising the likelihood of them being re-arrested. Among the many reasons that are to be blamed for the increased rates of ex-felons to relapse and get involved in crime again is the absence of vocational training for ex-felons and work release programs. These programs and incentives can work to reduce the rate of ex-felons getting involved in crime (Mitchell et al., 2017). The basis used to explain recidivism habit is related to economic constraints and the need for the ex-felons to meet a variety of economic decisions and needs.

Criminals serving long terms are said to be more likely to be involved in crime as compared to those serving a short term. As Mitchell et al. (2017) put it, such a scenario arise since they feel they have experienced severe punishment hence they believe that they cannot receive the same severe punishment when caught on the wrong side of the law again. Similarly, ex-felons consider the probability of being caught to be low and most believe they can be able to effectively escape arrest by initiating well-planned operations.

Structural Function Opinion

The structure of the re-entry system or rather a lack of a re-entry system has been primarily blamed for the increased rate of relapse by many ex-felons. In most countries, released criminals are dumped into the society without the skills and the finesse to make a living in a new environment away from the correctional facilities. As a result, they get involved in crimes since it is an act which they are good at (Franco, 2017). In most cases while in prison, these criminals associate with other perpetrators familiar with different criminal activities, and once they are out, they are most likely to be involved in these practices. This behavior happens since the ex-felons lack a means to make an income despite the fear of going back to prison.

The structural function opinion can be broken down into systematic programs that can help ex-felons fit in society and be able to make a decent income that necessitates their living. Franco (2017) points out that re-entry programs are one way that can be part of the criminal and justice system to initiate release back into society after being in prison. Moreover, before their release, the prisoners should also undergo drug and alcohol counseling to be trained in other ways in which they can deal with the prison stigma. More important, education should be considered whereby those who had not finished basic education such as high school can be allowed to finish school while in prison.

Structural construct opinion ensures a means of giving the ex-felons hope and making them believe in themselves outside the prison premises and back into the normal population. Lastly, skills learned in prison such as education, or any artistic skills can be of significant help to secure employment or any other source of income in the society other than getting back to crime (Franco, 2017). There should be technical training to equip them skills that can enable them to afford self-employment considering that the chances of them to get employment are slim due to their criminal records.

Social Conflict Opinion

Social conflict is another opinion that influences recidivism in that some social factors influence ex-felons to go back to crime after their release. According to Holtfort (2018), social set up and relationship is to blame for the stigma that exists especially relating to recidivism. Social conflict factors include things such as lack of support when it comes to solving social problems by the state as well as the ex-felons' families. Additionally, difficulty in locating a job, poverty, and homelessness are also social problems that increase the likelihood of relapse back to crime for ex-felons (Holtfort, 2018). The incapacity to adapt to the demands of social life is among the top factors that influence recidivism in a social context.

Low level of education is also a social factor that is seen as a way that generates increased levels of relapse by ex-felons. The inability by ex-felons to adapt to the demands of social life is a problem since the ex-felons feel that society demands too much from them and as a result, they find it very difficult to fit in (Holtfort, 2018). In such cases, especially for criminals who have been in prison for long tend to go back to crime so that they can at least relate some meaning to their lives. Difficulty in locating a job, poverty, and homelessness are also critical in that they are ranked as the top factors that influence ex-felons to go back to crime. If they are released, they feel pressed to find a job to afford a home and meet basic needs. Crime comes up as the easiest option especially when they are unable to find decent jobs. All in all, social factors have been largely blamed as the leading factors for recidivism.

Symbolic Interactions Opinion

Symbolic Interactions is a thought derived from Symbolic Interactionist perspective which relates to recidivism in that it explains deviance as a learned and borrowed habit. Most criminal have been understood to be deviant, and they have the habit to break the law (Denver, Siwatch and Bushway, 2017). Denver et al., suggests that while in prison, felons interact with other felons who have advanced in nonconformity behaviors from different societies. If they are released from prison and find that the economic constraints are too harsh, they reside to engage in criminal activities which are a form of expressing deviance.

Another symbolic interaction opinion is on gang-related crimes. Criminals serving time for a gang-related offense resist any transitional change owing to the obliged oath they made with their gangs. As a symbol of commitment to their gangs, most refuse or fear to engage themselves in correctional programs for fear of victimization from the high ranks in the gangs (Denver, Siwatch, and Bushway, 2017). Therefore, symbolic interactions come into play in that the character of regularly engaging in crime can be learned or borrowed by ex-felons from other felons while they are in prison. Hence, relapse to crime can be related to symbolic interactions where ex-felons fall, a victim, while in contact with their peers.


Denver, M., Siwach, G., & Bushway, S. D. (2017). A new look at the employment and recidivism relationship through the lens of a criminal background check. Criminology, 55(1), 174-204.

Franco, C. (2017). Three Essays in Economics: Recidivism, Economic Decision Making, and Biases in Beliefs.

Holtfort, T. (2018). Social Impact Bonds as a Financial Innovationan Evolutionary Economic Approach. In German-Turkish Perspectives on IT and Innovation Management (pp. 351-359). Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden.

Mitchell, O., Cochran, J. C., Mears, D. P., & Bales, W. D. (2017). Examining Prison Effects on Recidivism: A Regression Discontinuity Approach. Justice Quarterly, 34(4), 571-596.

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