Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Game Theory: Criminal Recidivism

When outlining I take long walks during which I occasionally even manage to think about what I'm outlining.

But mostly I think about random crap. For example, it occurred to me (and I imagine many other people before me) that once you got that being a criminal label, one of the big motivations not to commit a crime has been removed. After all, before you commit your first crime you're threatened with both prison time and going from a clean record to a criminal record. Afterwards it's just the prison time and a more extensive record (in addition to various other motivations such as gaining criminal training/networking in prison, and the criminal record making finding non-criminal jobs more difficult).

One resource says that about 50% of released prisoners end up back in jail within 3 years--which is pretty awful. Perhaps it's mostly the same 50% that keeps getting out and going back in, but the other 50% is a much larger population of one-time crooks--but that's sort of doubtful.

Anyway, I was curious if there had been any programs tried out where former prisoners could somehow work off, perhaps through community work, their criminal record and if having such a program helped reduce crime. Of course, some people would try to game the system, but I'd imagine there'd be little point in putting in a bunch of community work hours to reduce your record if you were planning on going back and commiting more crimes. Also, having the hope of getting a fully clean record might provide an additional incentive for former prisoners to do the community work and stay straight.

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