Rather than spending more to house the growing prison population and to fund excessive rates of incarceration, federal and state governments should focus instead on supporting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism. According to a study by the U. Sentencing Commission USSC , nearly half of all individuals released from federal prisons are rearrested within eight years of their release, and around half of those rearrested are sent back to jail.
The same study found that individuals younger than 21 who are released from federal prison are rearrested at the highest rates of any age group. Individuals who did not complete high school were rearrested at the highest rate— While incarcerated young adults and school-aged children are mo re likely to be rearrested , they also have a lot to gain from educational opportunities while in prison. There is a logical argument for prison education: It is a cost-effective way to reduce crime and leads to long-term benefits across the entire U.
In , the RAND Corporation produced a report that showed that individuals who participate in any type of educational program while in prison are 43 percent less likely to return to prison. In addition to reducing recidivism, education can improve outcomes from one generation to the next. Research shows that children with parents with college degrees are more likely to complete college, which can create social mobility for families. Prisons with college programs have less violence among incarcerated individuals, which creates a safer environment for both incarcerated individuals and prison staff.
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The significant personal benefits of prison education include increased personal income, lower unemployment, greater political engagement and volunteerism, and improved health outcomes. Moreover, high recidivism—which is exacerbated by lower educational attainment—also reflects a failure of the criminal justice system at large.
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Formerly incarcerated individuals with low levels of education often find themselves without the financial resources or social support systems upon their release from prison and therefore are more vulnerable to committing criminal acts rather than becoming reintegrated into society. Criminality negatively impacts families and communities and diverts money and resources that should be spent on preventative measures aimed at keeping people out of prison.
Numerous studies highlight the negative social, psychological, and developmental effects of incarceration on the approximately 2. These negative effects can include unstable family environments, economic troubles, increased delinquency, poor school performance, and even trauma — and stress-induced mental illness.
Investing in prison education rather than increased incarceration will also benefit the American economy. For any individual, not having a high school diploma closes doors to higher education, training, and employment opportunities.
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For formerly incarcerated individuals, the disadvantage of not having a high school diploma is compounded by the myriad barriers to successful reentry and additional stigma they face as they reenter their communities and the workforce. On average, formerly incarcerated individuals earn 11 percent less than those with no criminal record doing the same job.
They are also 15 to 30 percent less likely to find a job in the first place. While investing in prison education programs will require upfront funding, the long-term economic benefits for states and localities are considerable. For every dollar spent on prison education, taxpayers are estimated to save four to five dollars that would have been spent on incarceration.
If found to have a mental health issue, a convict can be sent to one of several different places. When a person first enters prison, they are again quickly seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist. At Zwolle, I meet staff who work with these prisoners, psychologist Verbruggen and psychiatrist Menno van Koningsveld. PPCs are separate from the general prison population, as is the case here in Zwolle. There are also several places in general mental health hospitals for those who agree to voluntary treatment.
There are many benefits to this early streamlining, the team tells me. They need more structure and need to be better protected — and they are also less predictable, she explains. Psychologist Maud Verbruggen and psychiatrist Menno van Koningsveld look after the prison's psychiatric patients Credit: Melissa Hogenboom.
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For instance, in regular jails in the Netherlands it is becoming increasingly more routine for inmates to get their own keys to their cell. Not so at the PPCs. There the prisoners have less responsibility because they are more vulnerable, the doctors say. The inmates also may engage in antisocial behaviour such as shouting at night.
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There are 12 beds in the female crisis ward for those experiencing acute mental health symptoms, some of whom refuse medication. Staff and visitors pass through metal detectors when they enter and leave the prison Credit: Melissa Hogenboom. Additionally, there are women who are kept separate for their own safety, such as the small number who have committed infanticide, a crime that can attract abuse or harassment from the other prisoners.
These women typically also tend to be on suicide watch. The help they get gives them structure and a daily routine, as well as food, shelter and medical care. Many of these women did not have adequate access to these basic needs in the past, especially those who lived on the streets. Although the Netherlands has seen dramatically declining prison populations year on year, with 19 prisons recently closed, van Koningsveld explains that this is largely because of electronic ankle bracelets and an increase in community sentencing. For psychiatric patients, particularly women, prison populations are actually increasing.
That is true both in the Netherlands as well as worldwide, research shows. It might be due to a shift in society, van Koningsveld guesses. Social structures are not as closely-knit as they used to be, and he believes that people have become more individualistic.
Instead they call the police. The prison population in the Netherlands is declining Credit: Melissa Hogenboom. As of April , there were women among the roughly 8, prisoners in the Netherlands, according to the Ministry of Justice. This is down from in But those who commit less severe crimes can be sentenced in the community. Others blame cuts to the police force for the decline, instead. The average stay for women entering the Zwolle PCC is about four months. If a judge lets them go free, it can leave little time for a mental health programme to be effective.
This is one of the reasons that repeat offences — and psychiatric relapses — remain common. Verbruggen and van Koningsveld also explain something I did not expect: inside, prisoners are more likely to get psychiatric care than they are on the outside. This is attributed to a shortage of psychiatrists for the general population. They can be held there until they are no longer deemed a risk to the public — something that is reviewed every one or two years.
The sign here reads "entrance for inmates" Credit: Melissa Hogenboom. Vivienne de Vogel works as a forensic psychologist at one of these TBS hospitals in Utrecht, specialising in violent female offenders. The average stay is between six and seven years and the aim of TBS is twofold: to protect the public as well as rehabilitate those who are there. Still, one weak point that the Dutch system shares with prisons elsewhere is that it was developed largely with men in mind. Yet she has found that women who commit violent crime show a patterned history of complex problems that are different from men.
This is especially the case for some of those who commit very serious crimes, such as one woman with a history of psychopathy who ordered the rape of another with whom her boyfriend had been unfaithful. Probing a little deeper, de Vogel quickly noticed that these women almost always had troubled backgrounds.