CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Personal Story of the Daily Battle Against Recidivism

From t happened again at a Taco Bell. The old way of thinking, the criminal voice, wouldn't shut up inside the head of Ken Layton.

"Yeah, take out that punk kid, beat the crap out of him, show that pimply faced idiot he ain't nothin' and you're still Folsom Kenny Layton."

He was standing in line at the fast-food joint, behind an overwhelmed woman with an unruly child. She was complaining about her order, and the kid behind the counter kept putting her down. "He was rude," Layton said. "Sarcastic."

Layton, 64, had been out of prison for 20 years. And yet the old thinking was back, a twisted moral code that he wrote in childhood, refined over decades behind bars and enforced throughout early adulthood, no matter who got hurt.

For many ex-cons, this is the kind of moment that can precede a crime and, ultimately, a return to prison. A 2002 Justice Department study that tracked prisoners released in 15 states found two-thirds of them were rearrested within three years for a felony or serious misdemeanor. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in a 2006 report, tracked inmates for two years after their release and found a recidivism rate of 38% after one year. After two years, 51% of released California prisoners were back behind bars.

Layton knows why: prison thinking, convict thinking, criminal thinking.

In his case, it was still there, decades after his last crime. But as he drove down the street with his wife, Layton adjusted. Within a few blocks, he'd found a way to stifle Folsom Kenny.

Layton's ability to defuse his anger is a rare skill for an ex-con, but it doesn't have to be. Experts think helping criminals understand how their thought processes are connected to the crimes they commit is more than just a touchy-feely exercise. It can reduce recidivism. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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