Recidivism: Definition, Causes & Prevention

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  • 0:00 Definition of Recidivism
  • 0:31 Causes of Recidivism
  • 1:10 Prevention of Recidivism
  • 2:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Once you have completed this lesson, you will understand what constitutes recidivism. You will review the definition of recidivism and examine the causes. In addition, you will look at the prevention of recidivism.

Definition of Recidivism

One key goal of the prison system in the United States is to rehabilitate its prisoners in the hopes that they will not continue to live a life of crime. Unfortunately, there are some individuals who will return to their former criminal life. This is known as recidivism, which is the recurrence of criminal activity after an individual serves prison time for a prior crime. It can be a measurement of a person's return to crime, or of repeated arrest or conviction.

Causes Recidivism

There is no single cause for why individuals return to a life of crime following imprisonment. However, some reasons for recidivism include the following:

• Lack of socialization

• Lack of job training

• Inability to obtain employment

• Inability to reintegrate into society after returning from prison

• Antisocial attitudes

• Restlessness

• Association with other criminals

• Impulsiveness

• Lack of education

• Lack of support

• Substance abuse

• Neglect or abuse of parents or guardians

Prevention of Recidivism

There are many different ways to prevent recidivism. One way critics argue to prevent or reduce recidivism is through prison-based education programs. Prison-based education programs focus on high school diploma education as well as college degree programs. In addition, vocational training may be offered. These education programs are designed to help inmates gain skills they can utilize when they are released into society. The hope is that these skills will help the offender reintegrate into society and avoid additional criminal activity.

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