At the present time, the recidivism rate continues to be the highest among inmates who are younger that 21. Based on a study conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, it was found that 67.6% of inmates who were released while younger than 21 were re-arrested (“NRRC Facts & Trends”). In comparison, 49.3% of all federal prisoners released were re-arrested (“NRRC Facts & Trends”). The U.S. Census Bureau reports that as of 2010, the total number of young adults ages 18-29 in prisons or jails has begun to decline (“NRRC Facts & Trends”). In addition, male youth in prison are 16 times more likely than women to be in jail or prison (“NRRC Facts & Trends”). Although the rate of incarceration is decreasing for young adult males, the recidivism rate remains relatively the same; recidivism is reported as low as 50 percent to as high as 70 percent depending on the state. Henslin discusses that recidivism rates prove the ineffective process of our prison systems and therefore concludes that prisons fail to teach people that crime doesn’t pay (219). The price that is paid due to young adult delinquency is considerable; arguably, the most important is the danger of rearing a new generation with positive attitudes towards delinquency and social deviation (Esmaili et al. 165).
Among the inmate population, it is important to note that juvenile offenders have a unique set of characteristics, which make them more likely to find themselves in the criminal justice system. First, research suggests that youth involved in the juvenile justice system have trauma histories that are two times higher than the general youth population (Yoder et al. 251). In addition, Yoder et al. indicates that juveniles also have higher rates of mental health symptoms (259). It is logical to conclude that youth exposed to early trauma have an increased risk for delinquency and involvement with the criminal justice system. According to recent research, African American, Hispanic, and adolescents with an open welfare case are at an increased risk for recidivism (Ryan et al. 7). It is easy to conclude that minority adolescents who have experienced childhood trauma are at the greatest risk for recidivism.
In order to truly understand why the recidivism rate continues to remain steady in the United States, one must understand how people fall into cycles of crime. Depending on gender, geographic location, and childhood trauma a person may be more likely to exhibit deviant behavior. Henslin uses the term deviance to refer to any violation of norms, but for the purpose of this paper the term will be used in the context of committing a crime (198). One way to look at recidivism among the young male population is to adopt the psychological perspective of looking at personality disorders. As stated above, mental health symptoms are much more likely in this population and the deviant behavior may stem from deviant personalities (Henslin 201). Based on the sociological perspective, one would look at the social influences that cause young male offenders to commit crimes. Among these factors include socialization, social class, and membership in subcultures (Henslin 201). Another indicative factor of recidivism rates is level of education, the lower the education level the greater the risk of deviant behavior. As a means of social control to enforce social defined important norms, we punish prisoners by incarceration in prison (Behravan 286).
Similarly, socialization is another factor that influences recidivism. Socialization is intended to turn individual into conforming members of society (Henslin 69). This concept is essential for our development as human beings, it teaches us how to interact with others, think, reason, and feel. Cuervo et al. discusses in a study that there are traits associated with crime among young adults, including impulsivity and lack of empathy (9). The study concluded that juvenile offenders with lack of empathy failed to recognize the needs and feelings of others and ultimately found it difficult to establish interpersonal links (Cuervo et al. 12). Socialization is directly related to one’s experiences within their society, making it notably difficult for individuals to break repeated cycles of crime. Differential association allows us to understand repeat offenders through the sociological perspective that from the different groups we associate with, we learn to deviate from or conform with society’s norms (Henslin 202).
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