How to prevent prison recidivism?

1 Funnel addicts into mandatory treatment programs to help them overcome their addictions as they leave prison. A study by the Center for Impact Research and the Developing Justice Coalition found that substance abuse treatment leads to employment and to reintegration of former criminals back into society.

2 Focus on high-risk offenders. Screening assessments given before criminals leave prison can pinpoint those most likely to become repeat offenders. When these offenders are juveniles, the screenings should also include their families. They can learn anger management and reasoning skills when provided with detention, education and therapy. One such program is the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project in San Francisco, in which high-risk incarcerated criminals attend a mandatory program that includes violence prevention, addiction treatment, and job training, and which reduced recidivism over 80 percent in its target population.

3 Provide character education by teaching respect, morals and responsibility. Such programs help prison inmates learn behavioral skills and teach them moral and societal values they may never have learned at home. One such program, the Peaceful Solution Character Education Basic Inmate Workshop, includes in its teaching the principles of private ownership, self-control and authority.

4 Break up prison gangs. Gangs serve as a support system for inmates in prison, and gang involvement is one of the major predictors of recidivism.

5 Provide job skills training in and after prison. The inability to get and hold a job is a major factor in criminal recidivism. Former prisoners who are able to keep a good job after release experience an increase in self-confidence as well as economic stability. A steady income helps them integrate more successfully into society.

6 Provide group therapy for released inmates. This has proven particularly helpful with juvenile offenders in Pierce County, Wash., where teenage criminals attend mandatory group therapy led by social workers, with therapists available around the clock. In addition, the former inmates perform work crew chores, in which they perform physical community service tasks, and attend weekend classes in anger management and teamwork. The Pierce County program has reduced recidivism over 70 percent.