The state of U.S prisons, which are overcrowded and violent, is well known: Though the US has only 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the prisoners. There are over 7 million (1 in 33 adults) incarcerated, on probation or parole, with 2.3 million actually in prison in the US.
If you research the recidivism rate (the rate at which people return to prison after release) the rates vary depending on which state, which city and who takes the statistics. Of course those taking the statistics usually have a vested interest in reporting the lowest rates possible.
If an inmate is released in state A and goes to prison in state B he is not reported as being re-arrested. If the inmate is arrested and goes to state prison, and gets out and then goes to Federal prison, he is not listed in the statistics as going back to prison after release. Usually statistics are only kept for 3 to 5 years, with one exception of one study which lasted over 20 years.
A study found that rates over a 20 year period were over 80% for rearrests and convictions. As we know, not all crimes are “solved” or result in convictions even if they are solved, so the majority of these ex-inmates have most likely done more than one felony crime during that 20 years. The fact is, that many if not most, of the inmates in our prisons today are serving “life sentences” just in PIECES, going back time after time for crime after crime.
While many people would like to help these ex-inmates to turn their lives around and for them to become productive members of society, research shows that at least 25% of them are psychopaths who have no conscience or empathy, and no remorse for the crimes they have done. This 25% of the inmate population does about 80% of the violent crimes committed in our society today. There is no help, no medication, no therapy, that will help these people to reform. If there is any help for these people (and that has not yet been established) it is only when they are children and by the time they are hardened criminals there is absolutely no help.
These psychopaths though, are adept at playing the “system” and saying the words the parole boards want to hear, and the words their mothers and spouses want to hear so that the families will send commissary money and provide them a bed when they come out. Because many of them, like my son, have spent most or all of their adult life in prison, have little or no education, and no real-world job skills or desire to work, the chance of them taking any advantage of a real job are slim to none.
According to the book The Felon, which is a psychological study of the thinking of inmates, while they are in prison, they dream about what life will be like when they get out, how they will get a “great paying job” and a “Playboy centerfold girlfriend” and a “hot car” and live the life of a playboy on the street. Of course, that’s not the case in reality, because if they did try to get a job and did manage to get one it will be manual labor, hard work at low wages, without any status, and they will not be able to afford any “ride” above a bus. No “hot chick” will even look at them. They quickly become discouraged, even if they do have intentions of going straight, and go back to their old friends, old haunts and old ways of getting money by robbing or dealing drugs. If they used drugs or alcohol in the past that becomes a habit again and so they are on the way back to prison before much time has passed, either for technical violation of parole or a new crime.
Sometimes I think they just get bored with “real life” on the outside. One of my son’s friends, Bobby Penny, a bright young man who had family support, got out after 25 years for robbery and murder, on life time parole. He married his girlfriend from before his incarceration and she was actually a nice woman. He rented a house and lived near his parents and brothers. He got a job in a machine shop, but hated the boss who demeaned him. He seemed to be bored by the “go to work, come home, drink a beer, go to bed, get up and go to work, come home, drink a beer, go to bed,” rinse and repeat. No extra money after paying expenses. Bobby stayed out for 3 years and then he and his wife got a divorce and he started hanging out with some old friends, and before the fourth year had passed, Bobby and some guys got drunk and threw a chain around an ATM and dragged it off. The cops followed the drag marks and found them with guns and the ATM machine and Bobby went back to prison again.
When he came up for parole and might have been going to get out, his mother called his ex-wife and told her that she “had to” take Bobby back, that the family couldn’t do it again. Bobby’s ex-wife went into hiding.
I don’t think Bobby Penny has any chance of staying out of prison. I think he is bored by outside life, by the get up and go to work world that we all accept as “real life.” Our lives are not “interesting” and filled with adrenaline-filled episodes of risk taking. We find our adrenaline in more socially acceptable ways in skiing, horseback riding, sky diving, riding motorcycles, football, baseball, basketball, rodeo, and other sports activities. We don’t resort to drugs and crime to get our rushes of adrenaline. But Bobby on a manual laborer’s salary can’t afford those things. He will be bored with the free world.
For psychopaths and others, prison is the “ideal environment” in that it provides a long list of “rules” to break in order to “win” over the “hacks” (guards) and the establishment who can not possibly enforce the large number of rules in the institution. Some guards will participate in smuggling contraband such as tobacco and cell phones –for a price of course– and inmates are very adept at making home made tattoo guns and other objects that are prohibited, such as weapons and home brewed alcohol. This constant risk-taking on a low level feeds the adrenaline addiction of the inmates and keeps them entertained and satisfied with prison life in a perverse way. They actually flourish in prison though they dream of being out. They know the system, they are adjusted, they have established a status among the other inmates and staff and know where they fit into the status quo. Of course there is always some danger in prison, especially if they are moved to a new unit or a new facility where they are not known, or get crossways with a gang, but over all, once they have been in a while, they learn how to survive. Even this danger feeds the adrenaline addiction.
How do you determine what the chances of your loved one going back to prison after release?
Risk Ractors for Recidivism
- How violent was the crime?
- How many crimes and how violent were they before this incarceration?
- How many previous incarcerations?
- What is the age?
- What was the age at first arrest?
- How much education?
- How much job experience?
- How much and what kind of drugs or alcohol did the inmate use? For how long?
- What has been their attitude?
- How many times have they been in trouble inside the prison for violating prison rules?
Of course there are many other things as well that will influence each inmate’s chance of re-offense. Keep in mind, though, that there is a less than 20% chance over a 20 year period that the inmate will not go back to prison or jail again.
No matter what your relationship to the inmate is, parent, child, or spouse, ask yourself how the inmate is going to impact your family when they come out. Is it going to be a positive or a negative impact? Even though you may love this person, ask yourself, are they and their behavior good for you and the rest of your family? There is no “one size fits all” to answer this question, but the bottom line is that the majority of all inmates will go back to prison for committing new crimes and these will negatively impact their families. Their example will be a negative on their children, it will break the hearts of their spouses and parents, friends and family.
Even as family we still have the power to say “NO! I will not allow this kind of illegal behavior in my home.” Just because someone says “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean that we have to restore trust to them for the asking, or that the consequences of their behavior go away. My home is my castle, I pay the bills and I make the rules. Anyone who visits or lives here does so by MY rules, if they don’t like my rules, they are welcome to leave, and don’t let the door hit them in the butt on the way out. My son Patrick has forfeited his rights to ever be treated as my son when he tried to have me killed. He actually forfeited them several crimes before that, but I didn’t realize it and kept on hoping he would change. I finally woke up, though, and did what I should have done a long time ago. I went NO CONTACT with him.
Sharing blood and sharing DNA with me does not give someone, anyone, the right to come into my home and treat it as if it were their own, or to flaunt the rules here that I made. I do not owe money to anyone for anything and no one can demand that I support them. My kids are all over 18 and that is where the law says I am no longer responsible for supporting, housing and feeding them, they are on their own.
If they were working and doing all they could to help themselves and being responsible, and got hit by a bus and injured and could not work, of course I would let them stay in my home, rent free, for as long as necessary for them to recover. That’s what loving parents do for their adult children who have fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. But even that does not allow them permission to abuse me.
But what about our adult children who have fallen on hard times because they have committed criminal acts, specifically violent acts? Do we take them back into our families again? It isn’t like we don’t have enough problems already with just life in general, but do we need the problems that will come with this person coming into our home? Do we have an obligation to take this person in? The person themselves says we do, they try to lay a guilt trip on us if we don’t agree to take them in. But is that guilt trip valid? ARE we responsible for housing and supporting them?
Years ago I said “Yes” to my son Patrick because I still believed his lies that he wanted to come home and go to college. Make something of himself. After he was released though, I found out a week after he was released on the robbery charge that he was staying at my husband’s “crazy” niece’s house near Dallas. He came home for a visit and told me while he was there that he didn’t come home because he knew if he got in trouble I would turn him in to the cops. I would have. Five months after he was released he was arrested for cold blooded, pre-meditated murder of a 17 year old girl.
I’ve studied statistics on ex-convicts closely for many years now since then, and statistically there is only less than a 20% chance that the person will actually not go back to prison in their life time for another crime. So I am done with giving “serious” convicts even a second chance, much less a third or fourth or tenth chance, no matter how much DNA or blood we share.