The challenges in reducing criminal recidivism
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Recidivism is a broad term that refers to relapse of criminal behaviour, which can include a range of outcomes, including re-arrest, reconviction, and reimprisonment. Prisoners represent a high risk group compared to other offenders with huge associated costs and a large contribution to overall societal criminality and violence. A number of studies have tried to identify factors that influence repeat offending rates within and between countries but these studies are hampered by problems with sample selection, definitions of what constitutes recidivism, and the length of follow-up. Programmes and policies that emphasise rehabilitation and treatment are likely to be successful in reducing offender recidivism. Programmes based exclusively on coercion and punishments (without a treatment component) are unlikely to result in positive outcomes in terms of reduced offending. The social cohesion that is so vital to therapeutic programming is often undermined within a control-oriented prison model. Hence it is of utmost importance for prisoners to participate in and complete academic, substance abuse, and vocational programmes. More randomised trials are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the programmes. Only evidence-based programmes should be implemented.
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