Recidivism. What is it? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines recidivism as:
“ . . . a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior, especially relapse into criminal behavior.”
And the National Institute of Justice explains recidivism as
“ . . . one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”
In the United States, 700,000 souls – men and women – are released annually from correctional facilities. We are talking about 700,000 souls who are, for the most part, not equipped with marketable job skills, an adequate education, and the tools to heal the scars of psychological, spiritual, and emotional detachment – a by-product of spending years in a criminal justice system which strips them of their humanity.
In an article entitled, “America’s Recidivism Nightmare,” penned by Caitlin Dickson and published by The Daily Beast on 22 April 2014, a study tracking 404,638 state prisoners from 30 states released in 2005 was discussed. The study, released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, revealed that 67.8% of these 404,638 souls found themselves back in the criminal justice system within three years of their release. Approximately 76.6% of these 404,630 souls were arrested again within five years of their release. It was reported that more than one-third of these souls were re-arrested within six (6) months after leaving prison while more than one-half were arrested again at the end of the first year of their release.
What is driving the high rate of recidivism? Ms. Dickson’s article provides some insight through CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor Deborah Koetzle who had this to say:
“In a lot of ways we set people up because we put them in prisons, which are coercive, violent environments that can have psychological impacts, and when they come out we put up a lot of barriers. We make it difficult for them to get jobs, to find housing. We put them back in an environment where there’s a lot of temptations without a lot of support.”
The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a highly respected jurist in the Criminal Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court, and the architect of a groundbreaking multi-tiered initiative – Operation Fresh Start™ – weighed in on what is driving the rate of recidivism in the United States:
“For the most part after conviction, these citizens are more or less ‘living dead’ in society. They normally have lost the drive to be productive, honest members of society. Many lapse into recidivism.”
Judge DeLeon’s Operation Fresh Start™ Initiative is a blueprint for eradicating recidivism and helping 700,000 souls released annually from American prisons to successfully navigate the arduous journey to healing, redemption, and reintegration.
“Recidivism can be reduced through expungement and pardons, thereby strengthening the family structure among poor minorities. We have been losing the war against crime. However, we can win that war if we begin to look at former inmates as assets and not debits and gave them a major boost by allowing them to expunge their records and seek educational opportunities if needed. To make that war winnable, I have developed the Operation Fresh Start™ Initiative. The Initiative that I propose is very simple in design, yet if enacted successfully, has the potential of giving hope to those that are most in need of it, for society’s sake,” explained Judge DeLeon.
Operation Fresh Start™ provides 700,000 souls who are released annually from American correctional facilities with a pathway to successfully reintegrate into their families and communities. In exchange for agreeing to, among other things, complete a curriculum leading to obtaining a GED or high school diploma; attend a community college or certified trade school; and intern with a professional, participants in the Initiative would have their criminal records considered for expungement.
Primary or core participants in the Initiative would be individuals involved in the commission of non-violent offenses.
“The core convict participants must be those involved in non-violent offenses, and coming into the program, must complete the program through graduation from a four year college degree program or certified trade school program, or other acceptable employment,” Judge DeLeon remarked.
Recidivism is robbing the village of its soul. Operation Fresh Start™ represents a key piece of the puzzle to eradicating recidivism and helping the village reclaim its soul.