Second Chance Act, Education as new rehabilitation approaches

Recidivism is the act of repeating a criminal offence leading to rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison after the prisoner’s release. The primary aim of the criminal justice system when it imposes punishment is to lower chances of repetition of a criminal act; recidivism, therefore, is a significant barrier to this effort. One of the causes of recurrence is aspects within the prison system, which fuels engagement in a criminal act upon release. Prisons create a platform of social interaction where amateur criminals can learn from experienced ones, and they may adopt such tactics in the future. For someone whose intention is not to desist from criminal activities, such an environment enables them to level up their crime skills. Secondly, incarceration hinders a person economically since no employer would like to employ someone with a criminal record and some lack of expertise as well due to the long time served in jail. This lack of finance causes desperation, and eventually, he or she turns to the old crime life. Also, prison most of the time does not rectify a criminal’s action but instead worsens the problem; therefore, an individual will not desist from crime when free. Recidivism also occurs when someone sticks to the initial lifestyle, negative influences from people they used to associate with can encourage them to return to crime (Stefanski, 2019).

Stopping the recidivism rate in the prison system offers a great advantage to society, such as increasing safety and promoting economic and social progress. It is necessary to change the prison culture to end recidivism since it does not create a healthy environment to correct inmates but instead worsens the situation. The prison system should rehabilitate these individuals and solutions that will make them productive and independent in the community. Also, more employment opportunities should be availed to inmates so that they can adapt well in society when released. Diagnosis and treatment of persons with mental and drug issues is also an essential step in reducing recidivism. Education in the prison systems also boosts the inmates with confidence to handle problems in the society and increases their chances of employment as well (US Department of Justice, 2017). Discarding criminal justice debt is another way of ridding crime after release since it reduces pressure on inmates to find finance to pay. Prisoners who utilize programs availed to them in the incarceration systems rarely re-offend since these programs provide strategies to overcome temptations to return to crime in future upon release. On the other hand, prisoners who refuse Second act programs tend to re-offend; in fact, prison nurtures their criminal tactics.

The Second Chance Act primarily authorizes federal funding for state and re-entry programs distributed in the form of grants. The receivers of the funds are required to develop a strategic re-entry plan that will produce a 50% reduction in recidivism rates over five years. The bill favours offenders leaving prison systems and aims at warmly receiving them by providing housing privileges, education and employment upon release. Therefore inmates with prerelease re-entry planning should be given priority when released so that they can offer services in the society. These funds are also contributed in state and re-entry law courts that are required to specialize in coordination and consultation with law enforcement, community agencies, and social services. Judges in re-entry law courts are given the mandate to monitor returning offenders and also ensuring providence of re-entry services such as drug abuse treatment, employment training, housing facilities and education (O’Hear, 2007). The bill is majorly meant to reduce crime when prisoners are released by giving assistance in housing, education, employment and drug abuse treatment.

The funds authorized by the second chance act also support non-profit making initiatives to mentor, train and employ willing offenders. An example of this organization is the prison entrepreneurship program that networks inmates with executives and entrepreneurs. Courtesy of the program, thousands of graduates, have been absorbed in the industry in a span of twelve months after release and received handsome wages. Moreover, learners are equipped with innovation and leadership skill that flexes their mind to transform when they reenter society. The program also reunites and forges stronger family ties because it invites the offender’s family during graduation ceremonies. Another non-profit making program is the Last Mile that empowers prisoners with knowledge in technology, digital communication and business. The students are taught how to code, and later they are given jobs in professional companies (Wells, 2017). Non-profit making schemes reduce recidivism rates by 7%; this is a remarkable effort in reducing crime in society.

The Second Chance Act increases the percentage of a federal sentence that can be served in home confinement. The act requires prisoners with lower risks to be placed in home detention for at least six months of the sentence before release. The bill ensures that an inmate serves a portion of the sentence in a halfway house, and appropriate resources are provided to prepare for re-entry to the community. The bill lengthens the considered period for house confinement for up to 12 months and not only a maximum of six months of the time served (James, 2019). The inmates are assigned with experts who guide them with resources, skills and knowledge to prepare for the life ahead and to receive acceptance in the community. The experts give directions on what to do and say, what classes to take, behaviour to portray and how to socialize among others to make home confinement a success. The bill also gives inmates a chance to earn good time conduct and requires judges to pass minimum sentences.

Moreover, the act exposes offenders to employment opportunities during the final months of the sentence, thus preparing to adapt to the world when released. Inmates can also earn 54 days of good time credit for each year of their imposed sentence; this is of great advantage to those that choose to grab the opportunity. For instance, an offender with good time credit for ten years will be granted freedom after approximately eight years of imprisonment. Time credits are given to federal prisoners when they part in productive activities and positively using programs availed to them.

The Second Chance Act also improves a federal offender re-entry in the community and ensures they receive identification be they are released. The acts aid inmates’ access government-issued documents such as birth certificates, national identification card, social security cards and license before they are released from prison. It also takes responsibility for the costs to acquire such documents without placing pressure on the offender when released. These documents enable them to register for school, access benefits such as healthcare, apply for jobs and open bank accounts without difficulties. Provision of identification documents to offenders reduces their likelihood to return to crime and makes them competitive and eligible for opportunities in society.

The federal bureau of prison under the Second act provides programs that aim to assist prisoners in maintaining strong family ties while in incarceration. Research has indicated that by forging close relationships with their families, an individual tends to change their attitude, and they are likely to desist from crime upon release. For this reason, programs such as expanded video-conferencing visitations have been established to strengthen the bond with their families. The staffs of federal prison give space and make visitations more comfortable and welcoming so that inmates can link with their children without fear. It is also a requirement to hold at least one family reunion event per year. This prepares the inmate mentally to meet the expectations of their family upon release and is an efficient re-entry program.

Education plays a crucial role in lowering recidivism rates. Research has shown that approximately 41% of incarcerated individuals do not hold a high school diploma. This is because a significant number of inmates are imprisoned even before they finish high school. Incarcerated individuals with low levels of education when released find themselves in financial and social strain and therefore are more likely to commit a crime to meet their needs. The use of knowledge as a means to eliminate crime is cost-effective and has long term benefits in society (Bender, 2018). Reports from surveys show that individuals that participate in education programs while incarcerated are 43% likely to return to crime. Inmates that participate in education also boost the morale of their children to complete college without dropping out. Also, prisons associated with educational programs tend to be safe as it engages the learners reducing deaths and violence in prisons. Education also improves the inmates lives at a personal level by giving them insight, self-discipline and responsibility. Investing in prison education boosts the economy of society since the empowered inmates will be self-independent, productive and competitive in the market, hence it is worth to support education programs in prison.

An example of an education program is the school district established within the federal prison system. This program offers necessary life skills, high school diplomas, post-secondary education, and expands opportunities for disabled inmates. In this system, inmates are assessed upon incarceration to know their level of knowledge and the kind of service they will need. The federal prison has also launched a tablet-based pilot education program that combines classroom instruction with online learning. Another program is the Second Chance Pell that allows eligible learners to receive Pell grants and pursue post-secondary education with the aim that they get employed and help their families upon release.

The partnership of correctional facilities and community colleges of higher learning is the most suitable way of educating incarcerated learners. Such colleges are designed to share learning resources and space with inmates, and this gives them a platform to gain skills, socialize and feel acknowledged (Gaskew,2018). The federal bureau of prison allows inmates to access courses provided by colleges and universities they have partnered with using the prison reform bill. For cases where the prison system is not in a position to offer onsite college-level option, they use distance correspondence courses. Community college may offer courses available to all or may provide specific ones for students in the prison system. The prison education system then chooses the easiest and convenient ones for incarcerated students. In addition, community colleges are funded by the government and are therefore relatively cheap to acquire education from them.

Despite the tireless efforts made by federal prison to provide aiding programs, not all inmates take part in these programs. Some inmates fail to follow instructions, carry contrabands such as drugs and assault inmates and the prison staff. Such people are difficult to deal with, and sometimes they end in solitary confinements or have their incarceration days increased. They also may threaten other inmates who are willing to take participate in the programs offered. For an inmate to actively take part in programs offered in the prison system, he/she must decisively decide to change for the better. Otherwise, failure to participate in prison programs only makes them advanced criminals. Institutional factors that can hinder an inmate from participating in these programs include the character of staff members of the prison; they may be too harsh and unfriendly and scare away potential inmates. In addition, some prisons have limited space to accommodate all inmates, and this discourages the desire to participate. Poor location of the prison system is also a significant issue since most of them are situated in remote areas where they are network problems; this makes online education impossible. Lack of funds in some prison also hinders the efforts in implementation and participation in prison education; this is because it is very costly, and the burden is imposed on taxpayers ( Austin, 2017).

In conclusion, prisoners that grab the opportunity availed to them in prison have little chances of committing a crime upon release. Education programs provided in prison make inmates leave prison with confidence, transformed, innovative, and self-dependent, and they contribute to social and economic development in the society. Education has a significant impact in transforming lives; it empowers an individual and brings changes from within, as the verse below affirms:

Proverbs 18:15- An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

The Second Chance Act aims to help prisoners reenter the society and adapt well by providing housing facilities, employment opportunities and education. The bill also supports non-profit making organizations that train and help inmates develop marketable job skills. This reduces financial pressure on them after release by making them aggressive to satisfy their own needs. In addition, the act helps inmates receive identification before release by issuing licenses, social security cards, birth certificates and identification cards, making them eligible for opportunities in the society. The act also aims to reduce imposed sentence duration for individuals with lower risks by giving them a maximum of twelve months of home confinement and time credits. Recidivism is an enemy to social progress, and therefore it should be overcome with all means possible. Repetition of a crime is generally caused by social, personal, economic and lifestyle factors. It is also necessary for the prison to change tactics in punishment, but instead, it should be a rehabilitation centre where causes of crimes are examined, and appropriate remedies are taken. Failure to work on correcting offenders will only enhance and modify crime to higher levels credit to the network of criminals the prison provides. On the other hand, prisoners need to utilize the opportunities presented to them in incarceration centres if they desire to take a new turn in life.

References

Austin, J. (2017). Limits of prison education. Criminology & Public Policy, 16(2), 563-569. doi:10.1111/1745-9133.12301

Bender, K. (2018, November 30). Education opportunities in prison are key to reducing crime. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/news/2018/03/02/447321/education-opportunities-prison-key-reducing-crime/

Gaskew, T. (2015). Developing a prison education pedagogy. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2015(170), 67-78. doi:10.1002/cc.20145

James, N. (2019, March 4). The First Step Act of 2018: An overview. Every CRS Report – EveryCRSReport.com. https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R45558.html

Proverbs 18:15- An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.

O’Hear, M. M. (2007). The second chance act and the future of rentry reform. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 20(2), 75.

Stefanski, R. (2019, August 19). Prison recidivism: Causes and possible treatments. Occupy.com. https://www.occupy.com/article/prison-recidivism-causes-and-possible-treatments#sthash.B5kWyrJn.dpbs

US Department of Justice. (2017, March 6). Prison reform: Reducing recidivism by strengthening the Federal Bureau of Prisons. U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/archives/prison-reform

Wells, M. (2017, January 27). 5 programs actively reducing recidivism rates. PoliceOne. https://www.policeone.com/corrections/articles/5-programs-actively-reducing-recidivism-rates-TWsyn3fmAGKOLZ4k/

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