CrimProf Blog

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wright on Reducing Recidivism

Robert E. Wright (American Institute for Economic Research) has posted Reducing Recidivism on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
As evidenced by high rates of recidivism, America’s criminal justice system fails, at great human and fiscal cost, to rehabilitate fully many of the persons entrusted to its care. This paper presents a relative cost-benefit model to explain why people engage in criminal activity and uses it to motivate a discussion of the major policy approaches to recidivism reduction. Most approaches have failed but two programs, the DOE Fund and PEP, have proven extremely effective, the first by employing former convicts in starter jobs and the latter by teaching inmates about entrepreneurship and general business skills and mentoring them after release. Rather than simply scaling those programs, however, it may be wiser to encourage further competition and innovation in the field by paying NGOs each week they manage to keep the formerly imprisoned persons in their charge alive and out of the criminal justice system. Such a policy would encourage desistance, or decreasing the frequency and severity of criminal activity, a more nuanced measure of harm reduction than the binary concept of recidivism typically used to evaluate program success.

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