Over the years, the rate of recidivism in the United States has had an upward trend. As the rate of incarceration increase, the taxpayers are continuously burden with servicing huge budgets. According to Mayser (2007), the government spends $30 billion annually on correctional facilities. This ranks correctional cost as one of the rapidly increasing expenditure items in States’ budgets. A huge number of offenders are rearrested within three years after their release, for committing another crime or violating parole. The increasing number of new inmates and those returning to prisons is forcing correctional facilities to increase their capacities. They are required to construct more cells and prisons, purchase more beds, hire more guards and increase their operation budget on items such as food. The number of people incarcerated in prisons can decline if the rate of recidivism is reduced. This will ultimately reduce the taxpayers’ burden by decreasing the budget allocation on correctional facilities.
Probation officers keep offenders from committing further crimes or violating their parole. Probation services include supervision, community service and specialist support services. Offenders are expected to frequently report to their probation supervisors. Occasionally, the probation officers make unannounced visits to offenders’ homes or place of work. During these visits, probation officers interview their subjects and other people, such as employers, to determine the progress of the offenders. Probation officers also ensure that offenders participate in community service programs. Such activities will keep the offenders occupied and also help strengthen their relationship with the local community. Specialist support services offered by probation officers, such as professional counseling, are also targeted at behavioral change. Behavioral transformation can be very challenging for offenders. Probation officers provide counseling services to offenders, such as drug addicts, on how they can overcome temptation and peer pressure.
The best outcome measure that should be used to judge probation officers is the number of offenders employed. Recidivism only focuses on the number of offender rearrested. It fails to identify the factors that influenced the offenders to commit another crime or violate their parole. Offenders who get productive jobs are less likely to commit another crime because they will be able to support themselves. Therefore, probation officers should be judged by the number offenders they have given, or helped get a productive job.
The current definition of recidivism only focuses on the reoccurrence of crime or parole violation by offenders who have earlier served jail terms. Recidivism as a measure of probation effectiveness should have a much broader definition. It should entail the factors that might cause offenders to commit another crime or violate parole. In a broader definition, recidivism would be described as the relapse by offenders to their previous criminal practices due to ineffective correctional programs, failure of the society to accept them back to the society, offenders’ inability to change their behavior and failure to take advantage of the correctional programs. This definition points out that certain factors are beyond probation officers’ control. Despite the efforts being made by the probation officers and offenders, failure by the community to accept the reformed criminal would prevent them from getting a productive job and socialize with people within the society. In addition, some offenders might not be ready to change their criminal behavior and to take advantage of effective correction programs. However, ineffective correction programs, such as unproductive jobs, will lead to poverty and might influence the offender to commit crime.
Myser, M. (2007, Mar 15). The Hard Sell. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2006/12/01/8394995/
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