Dissertation Topic: Efficacy of Offender Reentry Programs Targeting Recidivism in the United
Writing a Quality Prospectus
CRJS - 8115
Efficacy of Offender Reentry Programs Targeting Recidivism in the United States
I arrived at the above topic after an extensive search and review of the literature concerning the
prison reforms, specific rates of recidivism and the reentry programs. Initially, I had made an
observation and did prior research on the topic of the effectiveness of reentry programs, so I
already had an idea of what I wanted to research on. Any issue concerning prisoners receives
little popularity in politics, and therefore prisoners have little political power. There is no proper
political constituency to pressure for the funding of prisoner’s reintegration into the society. The
process of reentry even becomes more difficult for individuals with multiple jail terms. The
unions of correctional officers are powerful, but they urge for increased prison time and not for
improving the conditions and programs in the prisons and after the imprisonment.
The primary interest in studying the topic is because of the alarmingly high levels of
recidivism even with the reentry programs put in place. According to data from the Justice
Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2014 67.8% of released prisoners get rearrested
within three years for a new crime. The rates of recidivism for five years was 76.6 %(
Muhlhausen, 2015). Around 95-97% of incarcerates citizens in the US will be released back into
society. However, after release life for the ex-convict may become unbearable with no proper or
effective system for re-integration into the society. The ex-convicts are released with nothing to
call their own-no housing, no food, no clothing and no way to contact their relatives.
Furthermore, there are other factors such as stigma, deterioration of social networks and
economic distress that affect the reentry into the community. The adverse effects of such
consequences of the ex-convicts with no proper reentry programs contribute to recidivism.
Around the early 1990s, the Department of Justice has invested many funds into the
prisoner reentry programs. However, currently, there is no adequate knowledge of the most
effective programs for assisting inmates to reintegrate successfully and safety into society.
Furthermore, policymakers need to ensure that the evaluation of programs is based on the
primary purpose for which it was established. Recidivism remains the most effective measure of
assessing the impact of the programs for prisoner’s reentry. However, there is still some criticism
on the use utilization of recidivism as a measure of effectiveness as compared with other factors
used to assess the reintegration process (Muhlhausen, 2015).
The rates of recidivism suggest a problem with the reentry programs already in place.
While common measures such as housing and employment are critical, the factors are not the
primary goal of reentry programs (Muhlhausen, 2015). The lack of adequate measures for the
effectiveness of reentry programs targeting recidivism makes the topic worth for further studies
and recommendations. There is a lack of focus for policymakers. I am placing primary
importance of the recidivism rates as a measure of the effectiveness of reentry programs.
Additionally, there is a need to appraise programs about their outcome on the major purpose for
which they were employed.
Research on the evaluation of prisoner reentry programs based on employment shows
that the programs play a minimal role in reducing recidivism (Muhlhausen, 2015). The outcomes
of scientifically based evaluations raise some doubt regarding the effectiveness of the
involvement of the federal government in reducing the cost of reentry programs.
There is a general assumption by policymakers that assisting ex-convicts to get
employment has an impact on the rates of recidivism (Travis et al., 2014). The assumption of the
program is that employment helps ex-convicts to desist from crime. However, the primary
question is the timing of the employment for ex-convicts and not the employment opportunity
itself. The author, Mulhausen (2015) states that there are theories on the relationship between
resistance and employment among individuals who leave the criminal-justice system. The first
premises are the maturation viewpoint which states that desistance from crime happens before
the acquisition of legitimate employment while the turning point theory presumes that resistance
happens after the ex-convict gets employed. Assuming that the maturation theory is more
accurate, then assisting prisoners to get employment before they are ready to reform is
unproductive. The process of reforming a prisoner and their identity to that of a law-abiding
citizen is a complicated procedure that should precede legitimate employment. For example, a
prisoner has to change the mindset and realize that a crime has more harm than benefits.
Although federally funded reentry programs offering employment can be sufficient
evidence shows that it is vital for ex-convicts to be psychologically stable before they can be
productive in the workplace. Reentry programs that offer a multifaceted approach have more
positive results. There is still a gap in the research, mainly on a large scale to shed some light on
what programs are effective and which ones are not (Travis et al., 2014).
The topic has much significance in society due to a large number of prisoners (up to 700,
000) that are released from prison early in the United States. Studies show that ex-convicts face
many challenges when reintegration back into society. Reentry programs are varied with regards
to the services offered and treatment modalities to deliver the services. Among the 700000 exconvicts, about two-thirds are rearrested are reincarnated within three years. Despite the vast
number of reentry programs, little is known about their effectiveness. It is important to determine
whether the reentry programs are useful in the recidivism rate reduction and what factors are
associated with the highest success rates.
Relationship of the topic to public policy and administration
In 1968, H. George Frederickson developed a theory of equity in the society and advocated it as
the third pillar of public administration (Toavs, n. d). The theory was concerned with how public
administration was ignoring the economic and social conditions of different citizens. The
assumptions are seen in the case of ex-convicts with no proper ways of evaluating what reforms
are best for this group of citizens. It is important for policymakers to streamline reentry programs
to suit the immediate needs of the ex-prisoners first before considering the long-term outcomes(
Kendall et al ., 2018 Therefore, the public administration should promote social equity for the
ex-convicts to reduce the rates of recidivism. The current post-release programs have a limited
effect on the long-term outcomes and rates of recidivism. The impact of the system of prisons on
society is tremendous although it is an unpopular area. The prison system is a direct reflection of
the effectiveness of the rule of law but happens to have an impact on the society where the
prisoners come from and return to after the jail term (Harvard Law Review, 2010).
American Psychological Association. (2010). Learning APA style. Retrieved from
Harvard Law Review. (March 2010). "Designing a prisoner reentry system hardwired to
manage disputes", 123 Harv. L. Rev. 1339, database: Lexis.
Muhlhausen, D. (2015). Studies Cast Doubt on Effectiveness of Prisoner Reentry Programs.
Retrieved from https://www.heritage.org/.../studies-cast-doubt-effectiveness-prisonerreentry-program...
Kendall, S., Redshaw, S., Ward, S., Wayland, S., & Sullivan, E. (2018). A systematic review of
qualitative evaluations of reentry programs addressing problematic drug use and mental
health disorders amongst people transitioning from prison to communities. Health &
Justice, 6(1), 4.
Toavs, D. (n.d.). Ideas of governance. Retrieved from http://www.tikitoki.com/timeline/entry/146482/Ideas-of-Governance
Travis, J., Western, B., & Redburn, F. S. (2014). The growth of incarceration in the United
States: Exploring causes and consequences. The National Academies Press
Useem, B. (1997). Choosing a Dissertation topic. PS: Political Science & Politics, 30(2), 213–
216. Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
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