Recidivism: Why prisoners return to prison not long after they have been released

Recidivism; noun
\ ri-ˈsi-də-ˌvi-zəm \
A tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior especially : relapse into criminal behavior

Why Prisoners return to prison not long after they have been released.

Statistics show that 76 percent of all convicts end up back in jail after five years, have you ever wondered why?

EX-convicts face a lot of challenges after coming out of jail. Throughout their jail time they dream of the day they finally will be free. Once the day comes, the question that comes to mind is “what next”?

Of course, the fact that they will be re-uniting with their loved ones will be very thrilling. But once the re-union and excitement is over, reality sets in.Things definitely would have changed when they were not around and they begin to notice every change down to the slightest one. From their rooms that have been allocated to someone else to the painting of their favorite artist on the wall of the room that has been removed.

All these changes makes them feel like everyone has moved on without them and although their loved ones can not be blamed, it still hurts to know that they were fine without them.

What about the stigma from the society and even from family members? Aunties telling their children not to move close to them because they are “dangerous”? The word “convict” they are called everywhere they go?

The list is endless.

Life after jail affects people who have served jailtime a lot psychologically and for some people more than the time they were in jail. It is most especially difficult and confusing for people who were imprisoned when they were young and spent most of their adult life in jail.

After getting out, the next thing they want to do is to get a job not only because they want to have a means of livelihood but also because they want to feel useful after feeling like they are not needed by their loved ones who have moved on without them.
Getting a job is one of the biggest challenge ex-convicts face after getting out and this is because some of them barely acquired any formal education or skill before going to jail and even if they did acquire a skill, they would be termed “outdated” especially if they spent a long time in jail. Also, the word “ex-convict” in their profile, causes employers to raise their eyebrows.

Therefore, after multiple failed attempts to get a job, frustration sets in. For some people who come from a wealthy family, their family can set them up but this is not always the case. With no financial support from anyone, inability to get a job, stigma from the society and no emotional support, Felons feel inferior and frustrated and they feel like there’s nothing in their life of freedom that they have been dreaming of ever since they got into jail for them.

They look around them and have a feeling that they are not needed.

“Moreover, everyone was doing fine while I was in jail”

-they think.

It is inherent in everyone to feel needed and once they feel the exact opposite, they tend to do anything. “Nobody cares anyway”, they think. Some go back to their old ways {what got them into jail in the first place}, some mingle with bad company, some out of desperation to make money commit crimes and in no time, they are back in Prison.

This is not to justify the actions of ex-convicts who end up back in jail not long after they have been released, it is to give an insight to some of the psychological factors behind it.

Now, here’s what the individual can do

Change of Location: Staying in the same place you lived or grew up in before going to jail can affect you a lot psychologically. From the coffee shop you go to every morning that is now a pub to your younger sibling that was just about to go to college when you went to jail or a friend of yours that is married by now and has kids, the changes are always everywhere and they will be a constant reminder of the fact that things have changed a lot since you left and everyone has moved on without you.

Dear Talented Person, read this

A change of location can help you in putting the past behind you and help you start on a fresh page. Although the effect of the environment change may not be seen immediately, it makes you create new memories with new people in new places and as time goes by, you realize you have put the past behind you and have moved on.

Learn A Skill: Since employers are not willing to employ someone with criminal records, why not create job[s] yourself? You can learn a skill and have a means of livelihood. You can even become an employer of labor if you are really good at what you do and you expand.

Take Responsibility: Yes, the system should have focused more on making you a better person by equipping you when you were in prison, Yes the society should have known better than complicating your situation by stigmatizing you but since the reverse is the case, why not stop apportioning blames and start taking responsibilities? No one is going to believe in you, yet, you have to believe in yourself and prove to the world that you are not just another number.

In Prison, most of the focus is placed on punishing the prisoners and making life unbearable for them and little or no focus is placed on equipping them for life after prison. With the punishment and frustration inmates undergo in prison, they end up worse than they were before they entered and it is no surprise that most of them end up back in prison few months or years after their release.

Government should set up programs to equip inmates while they are in prison so that even if no one is willing to employ them after their release, they can be self-employed and even better the society by reducing unemployment rate when they employ people.


The different stigma and tags like “dangerous”, “ex-convict”, “criminal” that the society place on people who have been to prison makes life unbearable for them. Creating support groups, giving emotional support and being there for them generally is the least the Society can do in making life easier for them.

This article expounds on high recidivism rate in the world and what causes it, how to avoid it and what the government, the individual and the society can do to curb the continual rise of recidivism.

To cite this article:
Olaseeni, B, 2021. Recidivism: Why prisoners return to prison not long after they have been released: The Scoove Africa

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Posted by Olaseeni Bolaji

Olaseeni Bolaji is a psychology student in Obafemi Awolowo University

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