New Study Shows that Better Prisons & Inmate Rehabilitation Reduces Recidivism Rate
Criminal justice experts have been debating the value of prison rehabilitation programs for decades. The debate centers on whether job training programs and education initiatives reduce recidivism rates and are worth the public expense. America largely abandoned rehabilitation in the 1980s because of the costs, but as a result we have one of the highest recidivism rates in he world.
New research conducted by Santiago Tobon in Columbia and published this week in MIT's Review of Economics and Statistics examined whether better prisons with modern retraining and rehabilitation programs can reduce the recidivism rate among inmates. He found that such programs can make a profound difference.
Abstract: "I study the effects of prison quality on recidivism using individual-level data from Colombia. To estimate causal effects, I leverage the quasi-random assignment of inmates to newer, less crowded, and higher service prisons. For inmates assigned to newer facilities, I find that the probability of returning to prison within one year is 36% lower. Criminal capital, access to rehabilitation programs, and negative prison experiences—which could trigger changes in intrinsic preferences over illegal occupations—seem to be important mechanisms. The program led to substantial welfare gains, even when assuming a low social cost per crime."
And here is an interesting piece on how Norway has been able to dramatically reduce the number of former inmates who return to a life of crime: "Why Norway's prison system is so successful"