What are the leading factors that cause Recidivism? The prison system is not working

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Prisons serve as consequences for bad behavior in a civilized society. But they should also be a place for rehabilitation and self-reflection for a convict to improve themselves and learn from their mistakes. Recidivism rates are at an all-time high in the U.S. which means that prisons are not serving their purpose, which is why they have recently been publicly scrutinized by citizens of the United States for being extremely flawed. The prison system can indeed cause people to recidivate since they don’t actually help people change and be better people. But, what other factors in an individual's life who have re-offended have kept them trapped in the recidivism cycle? What are other factors in people's life that they cannot control? What factors are causing inmates to recidivate? There are many factors that can cause someone to recidivate, but my analysis is limited to the factors from the inside and the outside of prison. Inside of prison, factors such as prison gangs may cause a person to recidivate. On the outside of prison, factors that may cause a person to recidivate are unemployment and family issues. The goal of this study is to hear testimonies from former inmates themselves in order to better comprehend what factors are most impactful in leading someone to recidivate and in turn help improve the research on recidivism. I used the qualitative method of interviewing former prisoners themselves to see what factors have led them into prison to further understand what is causing higher rates of recidivism. I had precisely 5 participants who met the two requirements of being 18 years old or older and have been to prison or jail. The age range was from 22 years old to 60 years old. All 5 were males. The argument about my findings is that putting someone who has committed a major crime in society in prison and away from their families is not working. Politicians, prison officials and judges focus on just taking them off the streets rather than getting them the help they need for their personal problems. Judges allowing inmates to have the choice to take the help they need for their own personal problems does not help them which is why the recidivism rates are high.

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