The roots of recidivism

by Incarcerated Flavors

The topic of recidivism is a complex one to address. A person has to first look at the sociological, cultural and psychological factors. There are a series of things that must be questioned before addressing recidivism. Some questions need to be asked such as what led someone to commit the initial crime? Is the person a minority? Does this person come from an area that crime has existed over a long period of time and why? These are some of the questions that must be evaluated if one is to have an in depth understanding of the roots of recidivism and to truly address the nature of the problem.

I believe three major factors play a large role in recidivism. 1) Economic deprivation 2) Educational deficit 3) Western life style (instant gratification).

Economic Deprivation If a community is denied legitimate economic opportunity on a large scale over time, generations of people begin to seek illegitimate economic opportunities to participate in the capitalist economy in order to survive. Often the financial needs of people in economically depressed areas are immediate and often demand fast direct infusions of capital in order to resolve what ever problem exists. The problem with this is that most activities that bring fast injections of cash in economically depressed areas are often illegal and against the law, therefore exposing the actor to incarceration. A simple cost-benefit analysis of illegal activity will show illegal activity perpetuates monetary defeciencies over time. This enhances the likelihood that present generations and future generations will pursue the same course, creating the cycle all over again. This cycle is akin to the muscle feeding on itself when it can’t feed on fat during exercise. Almost all terms of incarceration and the lengths of sentences, far outweigh the amount of money obtained from the illegal activity.

Educational Deficit When ignorance outweighs intelligence it denies a person a broader view of the world. When this educational/intellectual deficit is placed within the context of economic deprivation, you have a dangerous combination. You now have a person with hopes and dreams in life with limited tools in which to rightfully obtain them. This produces an effect of maximum physical effort with very limited strategic and analytical logic. The educational deficit places the actor at the bottom of employment opportunities, when he goes to pursue lawful employment. Constant rejection when seeking to do right can encourage the actor to participate in illegitimate activities in the event of a financial crisis. An environment helps to influence those in it and primes a person to emulate what they see. Most become immersed in their environment. The personal standard of what is good and bad, right and wrong and what matters to a person, is often determined by the community one lives in as well as the household. The dominant forces in the community impact an individual most times. Education takes place daily in someone’s life. But often times street education trumps academic education. This approach enables an actor to survive the local traps and snares of their environment. Street education is often seen to hold a greater benefit and a more immediate application than the English or mathematics lessons taught in the classroom. The problem with this mentality is that it merely deposits more human capital into the brain trust of self destruction.  It also increases the probability that the next generation will suffer from an educational deficit and be likely to commit the same destructive acts.

Western Culture and Instant Gratification Most people associate a higher standard of living and better quality of life with material items only. Insecurities and fears are comforted by instant gratification and other external factors, instead of the things that truly matter. Wants and desires are seen as the priority within western society, instead of life’s essentials. The consumer society breeds a type of superficial standard where people are judged by the material items they possess. This in turn makes people believe they can be accepted by various segments of society based on what they have. This compounded by the other factors mentioned above leads to entrenched criminal thinking. It all starts with a person’s attempt to participate in the capitalist economy at a level that can’t be sustained by their educational background.

To try to address recidivism outside of a preventative and generational approach is futile. It only puts a band-aid on a problem that deserves some real attention by the government and by the masses.