Why Recidivism Rates are Dropping
In Georgia there has been a reduction in the rate of ex-offenders returning to prison. In the most recent report from the Georgia Department of Corrections, 25.3 percent of those released from all facilities (private, state, inmate boot camps, county, transition centers) in state FY 2018 were reconvicted for a felony after three years. That number dropped from 27.7 percent previously. In the last few years, the growing number of ex-offenders returning to a life in prison has become a more widely recognized issue among policymakers and organizations. We believe the percentage is slowly dropping due to the Second Chance program, and organizations like GCO working to help ex-offenders find stable employment, and the elimination of policy barriers that keep this population from working.
Even so, recidivism rates are still too high. Each number—each piece of data—is a person seeking direction and purpose to succeed and be self-sustaining. Not to mention, in a time when federal spending is high and inflation is growing, recidivism is a very costly issue for taxpayers.
It’s a common misconception government assistance programs fill the gap for this population as they reenter society. The key to mitigating the usage of assistance programs and aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and crime for many is stable employment. This might sound elementary at first, but as we move deeper into this idea you’ll see it is common sense.
The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. GCO uses this as a framework for much of our work.
- Jobs provide financial support
We all have bills to pay. A job provides a paycheck. However, let’s not get lost in the dollar signs. A job is more than a paycheck, too. A job is long-term financial security. Having a job allows people to plan for the future and set new life goals, essentially helping to define a person’s purpose. In a 2000 study by Christopher Uggen titled “Work as a Turning Point in the Life Course of Criminals: A Duration Model of Age, Employment, and Recidivism,” he found those over the age of 27 with a job were less likely to return to criminal activity.
- Jobs provide purpose
Plain and simple, we all have the inherent need to be needed. Work allows each one of us to use our talents and gifts for positive impact. Fulfilling work allows us to play a part in a community, whether that is a community of coworkers or the actual community we live in. Every job, no matter how big or how small, has intrinsic value. A job helps us to develop daily structure, meet goals, and take our place within society. It’s not easy to go from being told when to eat and sleep to freedom. Jobs help create boundaries and play a part to keep our daily activities moving forward in a positive direction.
In 2005, a study called “Ex-Offender Employment Programs and Recidivism: A Meta-Analysis” found “having a legitimate job lessens the chances of reoffending following release from prison and that recidivism is less likely among those with higher wages and higher quality jobs.”
When people have a sense of purpose, they become more committed, responsible, creative thinkers. They become healthier and more passionate about serving in a way that helps others.
- Jobs provide dignity
People generally obtain a large portion of their self-worth from their work. At the end of the day, no matter who we are we want to be treated with respect and equality. These are usually derived from our place of employment.
Without a job people are economically vulnerable to the cost of living and the economy’s fluctuation. Having a job and a sense of self-worth also helps reduce mental health issues among those who have spent time incarcerated.
Relationships with coworkers often provide the social structure and friendships needed for people to ease back into society and reduce the feeling of isolation.Through employment former inmates are able to receive the mental health and medical health support needed to integrate back into society in a dignified way.
GCO has dedicated much of its time and manpower to working with policymakers to reduce the barriers formerly incarcerated people face when looking for employment. To learn more about what we’re doing click here.