Tag Archive for Tennessee

Recidivism May Be Worse Than We Think

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeRecidivism: returning to a behavior pattern despite negative reinforcement. It’s a term most often used in cases of criminal activity or substance abuse. It is a chronic problem in the penal systems around the world, not just in the United States.

A few years ago, the BBC examined recidivism rates in the U.S. and the U.K., with some interesting results (via the Wikipedia entry for “recidivism”):

As reported on BBC Radio 4 on 2 September 2005, the recidivism rates for released prisoners in the United States of America is 60% compared with 50% in the United Kingdom but cross-country statistical comparisons are often questionable. The report attributed the lower recidivism rate in the UK to a focus on rehabilitation and education of prisoners compared with the US focus on punishment, deterrence and keeping potentially dangerous individuals away from society.

While the actual statistics may be a bit out of date, the idea on what fuels the disparity is worthy of note. The U.K. approach is geared towards reintegrating inmates into society by giving them tools with which to operate within its strictures. The programs taking this approach are popping up across the U.S. as well.

Still, the sheer number of people returning to jail after their initial term is staggering. What’s worse, according to a new study conducted in Memphis, Tennessee, those numbers may be higher than we have previously thought. Michael Lollar, a reporter for The Commercial Appeal, gives us the details:

[...U]p to 94 percent of former inmates will be rearrested and up to 81 percent will wind up behind bars again.

The numbers are part of a 20-year study that shows recidivism is far worse than statistics usually indicate. It is the only study done over such a long period of time, tracking inmates who were first jailed at the correction center between 1987 and 1991, says psychologist Dr. Greg Little…

Drs. Greg Little and Kenneth Robinson, founders of Correctional Counseling Inc., began the study in order to track the effectiveness of their treatment program as opposed to “traditional” incarceration. One reason that their numbers show a greater increase is, they say, grounded in methodology. Lollar’s article explains:

Tennessee Department of Correction studies show recidivism rates of about 51 percent over a three-year period, and national studies show recidivism averages of roughly 65 percent over three years. But Little and Robinson say the numbers keep going up over time, and the numbers are higher because most studies don’t count re-incarcerations that took place in other states or in courts other than the original case. For instance, an inmate released on state probation or parole is seldom counted as a recidivist if later jailed for a federal crime.

Even if their numbers prove incorrect, the ones they purport to replace are bad enough. Once jailed, more than half of all inmates will face a return to prison in their fairly near future. I think we can all agree that a system that is less than 50% effective is far from being in good working order.

The questions remain: How do we reduce the rates of recidivism? Does rehabilitation have a greater overall effect than simple punishment? Are there other techniques that can aid in rectifying this unfortunate situation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments – HUMANE EXPOSURES wants to know!

Source: “Recidivism,” Wikipedia
Source: “Recidivism rate worse than statistics indicate, Memphis-area study finds,” The Commercial Appeal, 03/07/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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“Tent City,” a Documentary Film from the Oprah Winfrey Network

OWN LogoOprah Winfrey has a new cable network debuting next January, and that means a need for programming. In an interesting move, Winfrey has announced a new series of documentaries co-produced with some of her celebrity friends.

Richard Huff, The Daily TV News Editor of the New York Daily News, reports:

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is scheduled to launch next year, and will replace Discovery Health on cable systems around the country. That network is now in 80 million homes, although its reach could grow by the time the network — which has been delayed by a year — gets started.

Julia Roberts, Forest Whitaker, Goldie Hawn, Gabriel Byrne and Mariel Hemingway were all announced in the recent press release as participants, along with the details of their respective projects, all of which are produced for the network’s monthly “Documentary Film Club.”

One of these projects makes this news pertinent to our readership: Tent City, produced by Gabriel Byrne. Here is a brief description from the press release:

Executive producers Gabriel Byrne and Leora Rosenberg, producer/director Steven Cantor and Stick Figure Productions present TENT CITY, a documentary exploring homelessness in Nashville, Tenn. With the economic recession, a growing number of people are finding themselves in a position they never imagined, homeless. TENT CITY explores a community of nearly 100 homeless individuals who live under a downtown bridge. The group is self-sustained and self-governed. They work to stay together after a devastating flood destroys their land and forces them to evacuate. As a result of the disaster, for the first time in Nashville history, the municipally run Homeless Commission has opened one seat on its council to a resident of Tent City. This opportunity will allow the winning Tent City individual the chance to spearhead the search for a new location. TENT CITY will follow the four candidates as they vie for election and the process of moving the camp and keeping the community together.  ’Shelter and home are the most basic human and fundamental human rights, yet increasingly in one of the world’s wealthiest societies, more and more of us are losing our homes. How we address this social epidemic may very well determine our future. This isn’t an abstract concept but a reality millions of Americans confront every day. Our sons, our daughters, our fathers and mothers are the homeless,’ says executive producer Gabriel Byrne.

This community is reminiscent of the encampments known as Hoovervilles during the Great Depression. The really interesting point is the enfranchisement of this usually neglected demographic by offering its representative a seat on the Homeless Commission council.

As more and more Americans find their resources dwindling, and the prospect of homelessness looming, these issues become a lot closer to home. What do you think? Here at HUMANE EXPOSURES, we are interested in your thoughts and views, please share them with us in the comments section, or on Facebook.

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Source: “Julia Roberts, Forest Whitaker, Goldie Hawn, Gabriel Byrne and Mariel Hemingway Sign On for OWN: THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK Original Documentaries,” PR Newswire, 07/26/10
Source: “Julia Roberts, Goldie Hawn, Forest Whitaker among stars to make films for Oprah’s new network OWN,” New York Daily News, 07/27/10
Image of Oprah Winfrey Network via PR Newswire, Fair Use: Reporting.

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