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Why do so many people with a criminal record re-offend?

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Recidivism or committing a crime after a previous arrest is a concern for the modern criminal justice system. It is so common for people to re-offend after a first criminal offense that some people refer to prisons as having revolving doors.

Once a person spends time in jail or has to live with the burden of a criminal record, the emotional trauma they endure and the limitations on their opportunities can quickly lead to additional mistakes. Roughly 75% of people incarcerated will get arrested again within five years of their release.

Judges and prosecutors usually have little leniency or compassion for someone who already has previous offenses on their record. That means that understanding what drives criminal activity is crucial to helping someone change their life after an arrest.

Who is the least likely to return to state custody?

When analysts look at arrest and incarceration data, they can see certain trends that help them better understand why some people wind back up in jail after their release. Typically, two traits set those who don’t re-offend apart from those who become hopelessly entangled in the criminal justice system.

The age of an individual at the time of their first arrest and their level of education prior to their arrest directly influence how likely they are to re-offend in the future. Older first-time arrestees and those with more education are significantly less likely than younger, less-educated inmates to re-offend. Those who have not completed high school are at particularly high risk for repeatedly re-offending.

How do those at risk for recidivism break the cycle?

If someone gets arrested in their youth, that doesn’t mean they are without hope for the future. Statistics only give people perspective on the big picture. They do not dictate an individual’s future.

Those who are statistically at risk of reoffending can take control of their lives by pursuing an education, determining a career or skilled trade they want to pursue, and exploring the psychological and social factors that contributed to their previous criminal activity. Trauma and mental health issues can easily lead to unhealthy behavior if left unchecked.

With good support and social connections, anyone determined to change their life can do so. They usually need a lot of help to get from the point of facing that initial arrest to moving on to a future that doesn’t involve complications caused by the criminal justice system.