Why do Inmates Return To Prison? Recidivism
Why do Inmates Return To Prison? Recidivism

Why do Inmates Return To Prison? Recidivism

When someone is convicted of a crime and sent to prison, the hope is that they will serve their time, learn from their mistakes, and reintegrate successfully into society. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, the recidivism rate in the United States is shockingly high.

According to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years, and more than half return to prison.

So, why do inmates return to prison? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this phenomenon and what can be done to prevent it.

Understanding Recidivism

Before delving into the reasons why inmates return to prison, it is important to define what is meant by “recidivism.” Recidivism refers to the tendency of a former prisoner to reoffend and return to prison. This can occur for various reasons, such as a lack of employment or support upon release, substance abuse issues, or mental health problems.

Why do Inmates Return To Prison? Reasons

Lack of Employment Opportunities

One of the most significant barriers to successful reentry is a lack of employment opportunities. Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with criminal records, and even those who are willing to give them a chance often offer low-paying jobs with limited prospects for advancement. This can lead to frustration and a sense of hopelessness, making it more likely that individuals will turn to crime to make ends meet.

Lack of Support

In addition to the difficulty of finding employment, many inmates lack the support they need to successfully reintegrate into society. This can include a lack of family or friends who are willing or able to help, as well as a lack of access to mental health or substance abuse treatment. Without these resources, it can be challenging for individuals to address the underlying issues that led to their criminal behavior in the first place.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a common problem among prisoners, and it often continues after their release. Without access to treatment, many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the challenges of reentry. This can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction and criminal behavior, making it more difficult to break the cycle of recidivism.

Mental Health Issues

Like substance abuse, mental health issues are also prevalent among prisoners. In fact, many individuals who end up in prison have underlying mental health problems that may have contributed to their criminal behavior. Without proper treatment, these issues can continue to affect individuals after their release, making it more difficult for them to adjust to life outside of prison.

Lack of Education

Education is often a key factor in successful reentry. However, many inmates lack access to educational programs while in prison, and even those who do participate may not receive the necessary support to continue their education upon release. Without a high school diploma or post-secondary education, it can be challenging for individuals to find employment and build a stable life outside of prison.

How to prevent Recidivism

To prevent recidivism, which refers to the tendency of individuals to relapse into criminal behavior after serving a sentence or completing a rehabilitation program, several strategies can be implemented. Here are three points on how to address this issue:

Rehabilitation Programs:

Effective rehabilitation programs play a crucial role in reducing recidivism rates. These programs should focus on addressing the root causes of criminal behavior, such as substance abuse, mental health issues, lack of education, and limited employment opportunities. Offering vocational training, educational programs, counseling, and therapy can equip individuals with the necessary skills and support to reintegrate into society successfully. By providing comprehensive rehabilitation, we can help offenders become productive members of society and reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

Community Support and Reintegration:

Smooth reintegration into the community is vital for individuals leaving the criminal justice system. Establishing strong community support networks can significantly contribute to reducing recidivism rates. Programs that facilitate the transition process, such as halfway houses, mentorship programs, and employment assistance, can help individuals maintain stability and make positive changes in their lives. Additionally, community involvement, acceptance, and support are crucial in reducing the stigma associated with ex-offenders, enabling them to build meaningful relationships and access resources necessary for successful reintegration.

Aftercare and Follow-Up:

Ensuring continuous support and monitoring post-release is essential to prevent relapses into criminal behavior. Aftercare programs that provide ongoing support, counseling, and guidance help individuals navigate the challenges they may face upon reentry into society. This can involve regular check-ins, employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services. By maintaining contact with individuals who have been released, we can help them stay on track, address potential triggers or setbacks, and reinforce positive behaviors, reducing the likelihood of re-offending.

It is important to note that recidivism prevention requires a multi-faceted approach involving collaboration between the criminal justice system, social services, community organizations, and individuals themselves. By addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior, promoting community support, and providing ongoing aftercare, we can strive towards breaking the cycle of recidivism and supporting successful reintegration.


The issue of inmates returning to prison is a complex one with multifaceted causes. While there are various factors contributing to recidivism, it is crucial to address them collectively in order to reduce the high rates of repeat offenders. A comprehensive approach that focuses on improving the rehabilitation process, providing education and vocational training, ensuring access to mental health services, and offering support for successful reintegration into society is essential.


How can community programs help reduce recidivism rates?

Community programs play a crucial role in reducing recidivism rates by providing support and resources to individuals reintegrating into society. These programs may offer job training, counseling, housing assistance, and mentorship opportunities, among other services. By addressing the underlying challenges faced by ex-offenders and fostering a supportive environment, community programs can help break the cycle of criminal behavior and promote successful reintegration.

What role does substance abuse play in recidivism?

Substance abuse is often intertwined with criminal behavior and can be a significant factor in recidivism. Many inmates have a history of substance abuse, and without proper treatment or support, they may revert to their addictive behaviors upon release. Addressing substance abuse issues through effective treatment programs can greatly reduce the risk of relapse and subsequent re-incarceration.

How does the lack of support contribute to recidivism?

The lack of support systems for individuals transitioning from incarceration back into society can significantly contribute to recidivism. Without adequate support, ex-offenders may struggle to find stable housing, employment, or access necessary services such as healthcare or substance abuse treatment. This lack of support can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and a higher likelihood of returning to criminal activities.

Why do inmates struggle to find employment after release?

Inmates often face significant challenges in finding employment after release due to various reasons. Employers may be hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, fearing potential risks or negative perceptions. Lack of job skills and education, limited access to employment resources while incarcerated, and the stigma associated with being an ex-convict can also hinder their employment prospects.

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