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Desistance is a term that can be defined as the end of antisocial behavior. This is the desired end result for criminal justice systems around the world. However, there are several issues that lead to a proportion of the wrong doers repeating offenses they are punished for. When the criminal justice system is dealing with a crime offender, it is important that the cause of the crime is first identified. Finding the reason why the person when into crime can provide the system with insights on how to correctly rehabilitate the individual and ensure that he or she is well on his or her way to leading a law abiding life after punishment. For example, a mentally unstable criminal should be taken to a mental institution for proper mental care before he or she is released to the public. Rehabilitation of criminals is not a venture that should be left to the government alone; community members should participate as well. The fact that the rates of recidivism are high in the United Kingdom should be enough reason for the government to find ways to reduce that number. However, there is a lot that needs to be done to improve the situation. Desistance is high but the number can be increased so as to reduce the general crime rate in the country for the safety of every individual. The criminal justice system has promoted desistance to a significant extent. Much more can be done to decrease the number of repeat offenses.
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Causes of Crime
The criminal justice was put in place to address the issue of crime. Therefore, it is safe to say that crime is the reason why the United Kingdom has a criminal justice system in place. The main idea behind the criminal justice system was to create avenues through which crime could be addressed and potentially lead to desistance. Therefore, before, one gets to look at the problem, it is vital that one has a good understanding of the cause of the problem. There are numerous causes of crime.
The first cause of crime is poverty. The need to make ends meet can drive people to criminal activities. With rates of unemployment getting higher and it getting harder to establish a business, many people are left without a means of taking care of themselves and their loved ones financially. Therefore, the next best alternative for such individuals becomes engaging in criminal activities so that they can earn a livelihood. The criminal lifestyle is dangerous and puts the lives of many people in the community in danger. Such crime has decreased once community driven initiatives were started in order to provide the community members with hope of earning an honest income. The poor get their dignity and are able to plan for their future because they know that they have a means of financing that future.
The second cause of crime is passion. There are instances when individuals in relationships end up being betrayed, and, therefore, they turn on their lovers who hurt them to get revenge. Such crimes end in the destruction of property and even the death of the loved one. This is a category of crime that is most common with women (Dorie Klein, 2014, p. 166). Therefore, offering such women emotional support helps them get over their hurt and pain, and, hopefully reduce chances of them repeating the offence.
The third cause of crime is drugs and alcohol. These substances alter the way that individuals think when they are under the influence. Users stop being rational beings. Therefore, individuals under the influence tend to be prone to making poor decisions and this can lead to them committing a crime such as petty theft or drunk driving. The very drug trade is an illegal business that thrives on crime and leads to many deaths from those involved in the trade and the users who are the victims most of the time (Martinez, 2015, p. 1380). There is an ongoing debate on whether or not the drug trade should be legalized so as to enable governments to control the trade easier since the illegal status is making the trade very lucrative.
Abuse in various relationships is another factor that leads to crime. Research shows that children who grow up being abused by their parents, siblings and/or guardians tend to have a high likelihood of becoming abusers in the future. Such children will very likely end up abusing their spouses or take up a criminal lifestyle since that is the only way of life that they know. For instance, sexual abusers tend to have a history of sexual abuse, and this history is what leads them to becoming abusers themselves (Monika Dargis, 2016, p. 221). Therefore, it is important that cases of abuse are handled exhaustively by the social services and other players in the community for the victims to have better outcomes in their futures.
Mental illness can be another cause that leads to crime. Individuals who are not mentally fit tend to have poor reasoning powers. Therefore, they are not able to make the best decisions for their good and the good of the community. Such individuals are not able to handle situations in a rational manner and, therefore, end up breaking the law and harming those around them (Murphy, 2017, p. 965). For instance, a mentally ill individual might end up seriously injuring a child who has made a mistake thinking that he or she is punishing the child appropriately. Another example could be that the mentally unstable individual believed that by burning the house, he or she is getting rid of vermin. However, in reality, a rational individual knows well that such an act is arson. Therefore, when such a person is going through the criminal justice system, special consideration is given to his or her mental state. Understanding the causes of crime can provide outsiders with a better understanding of how the criminal justice system then addresses crime.
The Criminal Justice’s Approach to Addressing Crime
The criminal justice system, as mentioned earlier, was created in order to provide avenues to address crime. The system first deals with upholding social control so as to promote peace and harmony within the community. Then the system tries to deter individuals from committing crimes or mitigates the crimes. Then the system gives the criminals penalties with hope of rehabilitation which leads to desistance. The first part of the criminal justice system that a criminal interacts with is the law enforcement agencies such as police officers. These are the individuals on the ground that investigate crimes and ensure that the criminals are caught and isolated from the population.
Law enforcement agencies deal with issues as they arise, for instance, the anti-narcotic arm investigates narcotics related crimes as they happen and apprehend the wrong doers. Once they are apprehended, these individuals are taken to court where they are tried for the crimes they are accused of. The general assumption is that every individual who steps into a court of law is innocent until proven guilty (Tardros, 2014, p. 453). Therefore, the law enforcement agents provide their evidence in hope that it will be adequate enough to put the individual behind bars or at least earn him/her a penalty.
If found guilty, the criminal is given a punishment e.g. it could be jail time or probation. The punishment, ideally, is meant to provide the criminal with a chance to be rehabilitated. The correctional facilities are meant to provide the criminals with avenues for reflection so that they can reform and be released into society as changed individuals. Part of the rehabilitation exercises is teaching the inmates how to earn an honest income. Since some of the crimes are motivated by a lack of an income to make ends meet, some correctional facilities equip inmates with the skills that they will need in order to earn an income once they are released (Thomas Ejobowah Boye, 2016). Some inmates are provided with therapy in order to get over the evils that happened to them in the past (Allison Redlich, 2014). Such steps help the criminals forgive themselves and become better individuals ready to rejoin society and be model citizens.
The criminal justice system isolates the convicts from the society so as to prevent them from carrying out more crimes and create more harm in society. This isolation makes the society safer, and provides the correctional facilities with a chance to rehabilitate the convicts. Apart from jail time, the criminal justice system has other methods of punishing wrong doers in the community. The courts can order the wrong doers to pay monetary fines. Such fines are put in place to inconvenience the wrong doer and deter him or her from repeating the offence in the future (Western, 2017, p. 251). The courts also give wrong doers probation which limits the wrong doer’s chances of committing a crime. House arrest also serves a similar purpose and it also limits the mobility of the wrong doer. Capital punishment is another form of punishment used by the criminal justice system to deal with criminals who are believed to have committed heinous crimes. The ongoing use of this mode of punishment is a very heated debate topic that does not seem to have an end in the future. All of these forms of punishment are put in place in order to discourage the criminal or wrong doer from repeating the offence in the future. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who repeat the offence once released or done with their form of punishment; making their punishment a counterproductive process.
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Reasons for Recidivism
Correctional facilities and punishments meted out in courts of law are meant to deter wrong doers from repeating offences. However, there are some instances where wrong doers break the law even after going through the criminal justice system. Research has been conducted in order to establish the causes for recidivism and below are some examples.
The first risk factor that leads to recidivism among former convicts is negative peer association. The company that an individual keeps determines his or her future. When an individual surrounds him or herself with others who have positive values, then the individuals is highly likely to live a law abiding life. The vice versa is true. For example, if an inmate was locked up for some years because of grand theft auto, then the inmate has to ensure that he or she does not associate with the company that he or she used to keep prior to his or her incarceration. The reason for this is because such company might have encouraged the individual to commit the crime. Instead, the former convict should look for better individuals to associate with. For example, the individual should find partners to start a new business with or get a job using the skills acquired while in prison. Moving away from old circles will reduce the chances of the inmate of repeating the crime.
The second risk factor for recidivism is substance abuse. As mentioned earlier, the substance abuse leads individuals to make poor decisions which often lead to criminal activities. If an inmate was addicted to a drug and the addiction is not dealt with while the person is incarcerated, then the individual is highly likely to return to the abuse of drugs. While under the influence, the former convict can turn to his or her former life of crime in order to fund the drug abuse tendencies that he or she is accustomed to (Hanson, 2009, p. 178). Such crimes can be petty theft or even grand theft auto which can be a dangerous venture sometimes. It is of great importance that the inmate is careful about the drug abuse issue because this can be a pitfall which can be very difficult to climb out.
Lifestyle instability is another risk factor that leads to recidivism. A stable life is an important factor to the success of inmate rehabilitation. It is vital that inmates exit prison life (which tends to be very stable with the use of established routines) and gets into a lifestyle that is stable. Such stability can allow the inmate to surround him or herself with structure which in turn enables him or her to start planning for life and living life in a more positive life (Seena Fazel, 2015). Such stability means that the inmate should have a steady source of income that can be achieved through having a regular job. The inmate should be able to secure a permanent residence and avoid frequent moves. If these two are not established, then the inmate will likely go back to the life of crime that he or she is trying to escape from. Such issues have caught the attention of players in the criminal justice system. Therefore, there are some steps that are being taken in order to reduce recidivism and promote desistance within the community.
Steps Taken by the System to Prevent Recidivism
Recidivism is frowned upon by the stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Therefore, the players take matters into their own hands and often find ways in which they can help the former inmates establish themselves after their release from correctional facilities. It is important that the inmates are offered all of the support that they can get upon release because this support is what determines if they will repeat their offences or not. The following are some measures taken by the criminal justice system to prevent recidivism. There are several ventures that are in place to support prisoners upon release. These ventures are not only run by the government, but by other organizations in the community. Some of these organizations are religious and others are non-profits that are created by the community members.
Employment is an important step towards reestablishing oneself after life in prison. Once an individual is employed, he or she can start supporting his or her life and make plans for the future such as getting better neighborhoods to live in and even a family (Hooley, 2010). Therefore, the correctional facilities try to organize employment for inmates once they are released so that they can get back on their own two feet. In addition to this step, there are some correctional facilities that have finding employment as a requirement for progress during follow up with prisoners once they are released. There are some organizations that specialize specifically in finding employment for prisoners. Some even go as far as creating educational opportunities for the prisoners so that they can enhance their skills and qualifications and find better paying jobs in the future. Employment is an important factor that prevents recidivism significantly; especially for inmates whose crimes were motivated by poverty.
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Shelter is a basic human right. When an inmate is locked up for a long period of time, the shelter that he or she had organized might be put in jeopardy and he or she might lose that shelter. Therefore, when the inmate is released from prison, it is vital that he or she is able to secure housing as soon as possible. The criminal justice system uses halfway houses to support inmates who cannot find someone or somewhere to stay after they are released. These halfway houses are residences where the inmates can seek temporary shelter as they try to find a more permanent place to live and reestablish themselves in the community. This helps to reduce recidivism because the inmate has enough time to plan what the next step in his or her life will be. In the instance that an inmate is unable to secure a place of residence after release, the inmate will end up living on the streets. When an inmate is living in such harsh conditions, he or she will highly likely turn to criminal activities and this is a situation that should be prevented by all means.
Inmates tend to be treated with suspicion once they are released from prison. Some people in society tend to be skeptical about whether the inmates were really rehabilitated. Therefore, the inmates end up leading isolated lives which are lonely and this can push them to the criminal life. Therefore, it is important that they have a support group once they exit prison. These support groups are important because they help the inmates establish social connections in the outside world. There are some independent organizations that offer support to inmates by providing them with mentors who will guide them in their life outside prison. These mentors will help the inmates establish businesses, find a religious denomination to fellowship with and even be a listening, caring partner when the ex-convict needs a friend to talk to. Social support is important because humans are emotional beings who need social connections. The stigma that comes with being a former inmate should be addressed. Such a venture will only be successful once the rates of recidivism are significantly lower and people do not have to worry about a former inmate repeating an offense. Denying inmates of this connection leads them down a dark path and on to recidivism.
Sexual offenders have to join a sexual offender registry when they are released from prison. This is an important public safety tool that helps to deter sexual offenders from repeating their crimes. This registry helps the authorities to track the whereabouts of convicted sexual offenders. With the offenders being aware of their constant surveillance, they are deterred from repeating the crimes that got them in prison in the first place. There has been a lot of public debate on how the registry should be used. There are some opponents who argue that the registry is used by members of the society to isolate the sexual offenders by restricting where they can leave; leading them to social isolation. Such opponents to the registry say that they need to feel safe and preventing offenders from settling in their communities is an important step. However, the registry is an important tool to the locals who want to be in the know. All of the above measures are used to address some of the causes of crime and ensure that the offenders are deterred from repeating the offenses. The statistics on recidivism and desistance in the United Kingdom prove that the efforts of the criminal justice system are extensive.
Statistics on Desistance in the United Kingdom
Recidivism is a big issue in the United Kingdom. Crime rates are slowly, but surely increasing and the repeat offences have a big role to play in this increase in crime rates. Statistics from 2013 show that the number of proven reoffences that was at four hundred and twenty-one thousand (Justice, 2013). In the case of juvenile offenders, they contributed to one hundred and thirty-six thousand out of a total of five hundred and fourteen thousand offenses committed in that year.
These statistics reveal that the number of criminals returning to their life in crime was increasing. The Ministry of Justice revealed that the current approximation stands at one in four criminals returning to repeat the offense (Grierson, 2013). This rate of recidivism shows that seventy-five per cent of the individuals who are punished for their wrong doing desist from their criminal activities. Therefore, one can say that the extent to which the criminal justice system promotes desistance is significant. Roughly three quarter of the criminals who go through the system do not return to their life of crime.
The Ministry of Justice published a report on the offenses carried out by repeat offenders between the period of September and December 2015. The analysis of the cohort of offenders found that within a period of one year, thirty-nine thousand out of one hundred and thirty thousand offenders repeated an offense. The figure fluctuated between twenty-nine percent and thirty-two per cent. Repeat offenders do not necessarily have to be locked up for the crime to be considered a re-offense. A repeat offense could end result in a warning, caution, reprimand or a court conviction. When the numbers were compared, it was found that the average number of crimes for the repeat offenders was roughly 3.83 offenses per individual (Justice, 2013). The total number of re-offenses was one hundred and forty-eight thousand. In the report, the juvenile offenders have a higher rate of recidivism compared to the adult offenders. The juvenile offenders have a rate of 41.8% compared to the 29.6% of the adult offenders (Justice, 2017). The report further revealed that juveniles with no history of offenses had a low rate of recidivism.
The statistics show that the extent of desistance, as promoted by the criminal justice system is significant. The number of individuals who are repeating offenses is smaller than that of individuals who are desisting. Therefore, the efforts by the criminal justice system cannot be underplayed. They have contributed to safer communities. In fact, according to the report by the Ministry of Justice, the number of juvenile offenders has been steadily decreasing since 2008. Therefore, the increase in repeat offenders in the cohort of juvenile offenders reveals that the offenders in the lot are the individuals who really need help and have to be rehabilitated by the criminal justice system. The percentage is almost half when it comes to the adult cohort.
The statistics reveal that a good proportion of individuals who go through the criminal justice system are rehabilitated. These individuals are able to see the error of their ways and choose to avoid the life of crime. In some cases, the answer is as simple as the offenders do not want to return to the prisons, and, therefore, they choose to lead a life that is law abiding. The fact that the number of repeat offenders is increasing in the United Kingdom should be enough reason for the policy makers to review the laws that are currently in place and find areas where they can improve and close all loopholes for better inmate outcomes once they are released.
Areas for Improvement
There are several areas that can be improved upon so as to significantly improve the rate of desistance in society, for instance, the complete avoidance of unnecessary prison sentences. For people who default on fines, it is better to give them a punishment like probation rather than prison. Giving such individuals prison sentences only gives them chances to interact with people who have committed more serious offenses. Depending on the individual, they might end up committing crimes that are more serious than the ones they got locked up for; creating a serious problem for the community (Brown, 2016, p. 156). For instance, an individual who gets locked up for failing to pay parking ticket fines can end up interacting with a bank thief in jail and that individual might be inspired to ‘upgrade’ to more serious crimes. Such a situation leads to repeat offenses and unnecessary interaction between a person who simply did not pay a fine and a seasoned criminal.
The criminal justice system should also find alternative means of dispute resolution. Not all cases should go the traditional way where lawyers argue it out in court on behalf of their clients. Such a process has only led to individuals leaving court houses being bitter and unwilling to acknowledge their wrong doing in a criminal activity. There are other means of resolving conflict that can be used and yield better results. For instance, conciliation can be used in cases where one party felt that he or she was wronged and they can then agree on the right punishment to be given to the wrong doer once the conciliatory process is done. For instance, in a murder case, the victim’s loved ones can use conciliation as a means to get to the murderer and let him or her know that he or she has been forgiven for committing the crime. Such a method of dispute resolution leads to better relationships in the community and true rehabilitation for the inmate who is aware that he or she has been forgiven by the person he or she offended.
It is a truth that not all inmates are adequately rehabilitated. In fact, prison is seen as a scary place where “bad people” are taken for doing bad things. For some inmates, this experience is true. However, the criminal justice system should see to it that all inmates are rehabilitated and corrected for their wrong doings. It should be the goal of every player in the criminal justice system to see the offenders leave the correctional facilities as better individuals who are not looking forward to repeating the crimes that got them there in the first place. Policy makers should make ex-convict support a priority so that the former inmates do not go back to their old lives simply because they had no other means of providing for themselves and their loved ones. Rehabilitation should be made the sole purpose of correctional facilities instead of isolation. Such reforms as the ones mentioned above will improve prisoner outcomes and further complement the efforts by the criminal justice system to promote desistance; making the nation’s communities safer.
In conclusion, the criminal justice system has made significant steps to promote desistance. Desistance is the desired result for all endeavors in the justice system. Criminals should be tried, punished and rehabilitated for their crimes. Follow up activities enable the inmates to get on the right track as they recover from their incarceration. These individuals should then desist from committing crimes. In order to understand the best way to rehabilitate criminals, it is vital that the motivation for criminal activities is established first. There are several causes for crime e.g. substance abuse and poverty. A criminal should then go through all parts of the criminal justice system and emerge a better individual. The United Kingdom government has promoted desistance to a significant extent. The government has tried to help former inmates and wrong doers establish themselves in society after they are released. In conjunction with religious organizations and non-profits, the inmates are provided with employment opportunities and accommodation at halfway houses so as to help them get back on their feet after they are released. Some organizations provide these inmates with mentors to help them get on their feet. The fact that one in four ex-convicts in the United Kingdom repeats the offense shows that there is a lot that needs to be done by the criminal justice system to promote desistance further. The number could be significantly lower if the right measures are put in place. However, the fact that the current desistance rate is at seventy-five per cent should not be forgotten either. It is a good proportion and research should be conducted to find out how this proportion can be increased. Reform on how criminals are dealt with is an important step in the right direction for the criminal justice system. It is not realistic to say that there will exist a time in society when crime will vanish. However, it is a realistic goal to ensure that the criminal justice system is adequately prepared to rehabilitate criminals and make them constructive members of the society. The criminal justice system has done a good job in promoting desistance in society, however, more work needs to be done.
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