WHY FELONS RETURN TO CRIME
answers to a "Special Request"
Of course when talking about human behavior the answer is not so easy. It is impossible to predict the behavior of one single man. Why a single felon returns to a life of crime is as varied as there are felons. A better question is, "What are the over all patterns of inmate recidivism?" In the past the correctional system believed that criminals needed a good old fashion does of religion, quite time, and hard work. What studies found was that while change was apparent while the inmate was in prison, he/she quickly reverted to his old ways once back in his old environment; surrounded by the people, places, and things that tempted and reminded him of his old life of crime. Then in the early 1970's, hot on the heels of the 60's movement, was a "re-educate" or "rehabilitate" the inmates. It was thought that crime arose out of an environment of poverty, lack of education, and lack of economic opportunity. It was thought that the "teach a man to fish" philosophy would help. After a decade of giving free high school education and in some Federal prisons, a free college education, what studies showed was that you were simply getting a better educated class of criminals. The criminals (or "offenders" as they are now referred) were using their knowledge to plan more and more sophisticated brand of crimes. Then came the 80's and Reagan's war on drugs. Even Bill Buckley and other Libertarian leaning conservatives agree that this war is a losing battle. But we went full force none the less. On the positive side, what was discovered in all this was that what those who committed crimes lacked was right thinking. For example, here is a common judgment question that psychologists pose to people to assess moral/ethical judgement, "What are you to do if you find a wallet lying on the sidewalk with $500 in cash, credit cards, and identification?" The answer is of course, "Return the wallet to the person it belongs to." What those with criminal thinking say, when answering the question, is "Do you want me to tell you what I am supposed to do or what I would do?" Criminals have something of a psychological disorder in the way they think. They always think of themselves first, always assume others are out to scam them so they must scam first, always believe that they cannot get ahead without breaking the law, etc. etc. They have a large and well developed set of "attributions" or assumptions about how the world works, that lead them to make criminal choices instead of pro-social ones. Add drug abuse that also impairs judgment on top that that, and you get a person who is really lousy at making appropriate decisions. What the Federal Bureau of Prisons found in now over 20 years of research, is that focusing on criminal thinking, helping to rehab old drug inclinations, and working on education is at the core of any prison treatment program. When I was at the BOP, I designed a program called FREE (Focused Re-Entry to Exemplify Excellence)
which attempted to pull together all the resources that the prison system had scattered around and focus it toward one goal: preparing the inmate for release back into the community and teaching him how to lead a pro-social, law abiding lifestyle.
The program, FREE attempted to focus on nine essential skill sets (that were all ready available in various departments but weren't being taught with re-entry in mind). The Warden and higher ups loved this program because it did not utilize and additional tax payer dollars and it put a significant portion of the inmate population into "24" programming mode which reduced idol time.
Here is an outline of the program:
I. The FREE Program FOCUSED RE-ENTRY to EXEMPLIFY EXCELLENCE
A. ASSESSMENT TOOL Each Inmate is given the Inmate Skills Assessment
B. Take the Nine Essential Skill Sets and translate them into viable, practical, measurable goals in the real world. Classes taught in the FREE program each fit into one of the 9 essential skills. They are:
1. Daily Living
2. Mental Health Functioning
3. Physical Wellness
4. Interpersonal Proficiency (Communication Skills i.e. toastmasters)
5. Academic Readiness
6. Cognitive Abilities (this is where criminal thinking is attacked and replaced with pro-social thinking).
7. Vocational Revitalization
8. Positive Leisure Time Management (this was essential, what other studies found is that inmates, once released, could find a job and find a place to sleep, it was the 8 hours awake, away from work that usually led to new crimes).
9. Character Building (my personal addition and focuses on values, ethics, and moral standards set forth in the inmates own religious or philosophical system).
1. Focused positive re-enforcement
2. Emphasis on natural, logical consequences of not completing tasks.
3. Develop Internal Motivation Not fear based
4. Continue to develop a creative, innovative approach to programing
5. Cultivate a Rich Unit environment where self-help opportunities are abundant
6. Focus on Empowering and Supporting participants
7. Motivate participants toward life-long growth and service to others.
8. Program requires acquisition and demonstration of mastery in all nine skill sets.
D. Some of the Classes Covered over Six Months
1. The Attitudes of Change
2. Living free
3. Personal Growth and Development Class on Goal setting and time management
4. Men at Work A class on understanding personal responsibility
5. Victim Impact
6. Toastmasters public speaking and effective communication
7. Employment Skills
8. Long Distance Dads A parenting program
9. Thinking for a Change
10. Meditation classes and Spiritual life building
11. Vocational Programs
12. FDIC Money-Smart Financial Literacy Program.
E. Other Programing During FREE
1. Inmates are encouraged to seek out Mentor assistance (Mentors are inmates who have been through extensive programming and have demonstrated the character and skills necessary to lead by example).
2. Inmates are required to create a Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Wellness plan. They are required to show evidence that they are committed to their own self-improvement programs.
F. Inmates are Required to complete a Community Service Project: (This was great training for them because it caused them to focus their attention toward the greater community--in our experiment it was the inmate community which we hoped would translate into pro-social community involvement once released).
1. This project is one of their own creation that serves to foster empathy and a sense of belonging to a greater community.
2. Community Service Projects Include:
a. A booklet and classes to teach how to clear up your driving record prior to release.
b. Classes on How to Repair Credit
c. A physical education program
d. Forms of Insurance and why you need it.
e. Teach the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
f. Create Booklet of Job Contacts via local trade union
g. A booklet for Distance education via colleges to inmates
h. Creating a booklet that lists local employers willing to hire ex-Inmates
i. CDL Trucking courses
j. Implementation of Toastmasters.
3. In addition, each participant must create a binder of community resources for the city which they will be returning to.
The FREE program was adopted by the feds nation wide and I won a national recognition award from the director for it shortly before I left. Preliminary studies have shown that it is quite effective and has reduced recidivism in the federal inmate population by 40% in the two years that it's been in effect. Older studies show that those who can stay out, employed, involved with their community for more than 3 years are likely never to return to prison.
ANYWAY, E's original request was "what would SirSaunders do as King, to end recidivism." As King, I would immediately return to a more libertarian form of government. I would recall all troops worldwide immediately and return them to our borders. I would end all Federal authority over all of crimes of vice (i.e. drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc.). I would use the immence surpluses toward tax rebates then ending the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax. I would take all remaining resources and devote them to space exploration/colonization. Once my fusion and anti-matter generators came online, no one would need oil so the Arabs could go back to living in the 14th century. After a decade, I would leave planet Earth for the nearest star where my family and all my Junto brothers, and their loved ones, would sleep safey in chrono-suspension storage until we reached "New Eden" 10,000 light years away; a planet I so named after it's discovery by the international observatory. Then I will establish a new order of utopian freedom that would last a 1000 years!
But, I probably would be assassinated shortly after recalling the troops.