Criminal Recidivism: the Plight of African American Male Youth?

by Lester Long Jr. MS CPC BS CSS CADC CPS


The high rate of recidivism among African-American male youth is a major problem in the United States (Kroner and Yessine, 2013). Darendbourg, Perez, and Blake (2013) point out that the United States federal and state inmate populations have increased to over 1.5 million since 2005. Their research showed that, though there have been some small decreases since that time, the decrease level have had very little impact on the overall annual rate of incarceration which averages about 770,000. The National Institute of Justice (2013) explains that the national inmate population stands at 2.4 million and African-Americans and Hispanics make up two-thirds of that total. This is significant since African-Americans only consist of 12% of the population and the Hispanics population around 16.7%. The National Institute of Justice goes on to point out that the United States has the highest number of people incarcerated than any other democratic nation in the world. Among African American juvenile arrests

Boulger, .Bostwick, and Powers (2012) point out that the re-incarceration rate averages about three times higher than that of Whites. Boulger et al point to the State of Illinois as an example where the African-American male youth recidivism is high. Their State commission report showed that the African male youth recidivism rate is as high as 40%. Jackson (2009) explains that 1 in 3 African-Americans between the ages 20-29 are under the criminal justice system. Jackson further points out that the current incarcerate by race places Whites at 919 per 100,000 while African-Americans are almost 7000 per 100,000. This is a significant number because a large percentage is African-American male youth.

The Center for Disease Control (2013) explains that African-American male youth committing violent crimes since the 1980s has doubled that of their White counterparts. The number of offenses committed with firearms in 2006 showed that African-Americans at a rate of 100.4 per 100,000 five times more than any other group. Walsh and Kosson (2007) in drawing attention to the high rate of incarceration and re-incarceration of African-American male youth contribute this to socioeconomic status and ethnicity. In addition, the implications of living in poverty and racial/cultural disparities lead to anxious and frustrated feelings. These feelings have widespread implications as it relates to criminal recidivism.

The growing concern about violent crime rate in the 1970s, resulted in harsher and longer sentences by the courts; Reisig, Bales, Hay, and Wong (2007) point out that these new law were enacted to appropriate greater penalties for those perceived as career criminals. However, after many finished serving their sentences, the population of released prisoners grew from 170,000 in the 1980s to 600,000 by the year 2000. Reisig et al point out that the rate of young African-American males, who made up the majority of those incarcerated increased as result of this policy.Miller (2010) explains that there is strong evidence that the overwhelming incarcerated and re-incarcerated population is drawn from poor neighborhoods. Miller points out that the high concentration of persons in the prison system is mostly uneducated and most lack the skills to gain meaningful employment. Miller goes on to point out that the result of having such a large segment of African-American community in this situation has bred feelings of racial victimization and distrust. This distrust has resulted in the development of a subculture which is evident by negative and often anti-social behaviors. This situation is credited with creating persistent criminal behaviors.


There are many problems related to the high rate of African-American recidivism. One such problem is the lack of criminal justice/prison rehabilitation programs. This situation has had strong implication for African-American male youth. This is particularly troubling because this population of offenders is disproportionately represented in the system (Wernsman, 2009). Reed (2010) points out that the inability or unwillingness of the criminal justice system to develop more effective rehabilitation/intervention programs to improve employment skill; educational enhancement, substance abuse treatment and changing anti-social behavior has had a significant impact on the rate of recidivism among African-American male youth. The National Summit on Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety (2011) released a report indicating that states and local governments can ill afford to continue to spend tax payers’ money on building more and more new prison and not investing in rehabilitation efforts. The Summit Report goes on to explain that it is necessary and essential for communities to begin developing more effective ways of addressing crime and recidivism. The Summit concluded that strategies must be developed to provide substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as education and job training to rehabilitate offenders. The Summit Report further concluded that Congress needs to understand that the high rate of recidivism must be reversed.

In recent years the Congress has taken some action by the passing of the Second Chance Act of 2008. This Act provide some funds to assist state and local governments as well as community agencies in developing programs that will increase the success of released prisoners by providing substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as education and job training (The National Institute of Justice, 2013). However, the implementation of these programs requires cooperation of local communities in the form the businesses willing to hire ex-offenders as well as the availability of social service which are already overcrowded and in some communities this may be a major challenge. The National Institute of Justice (2013) explains that compared to the numbers of released prisoners per year somewhere around 550,000 to 600,000, the resources allocated is like putting a bandage on a serious cut. Siegal et al, (2012) contend that the lack of effective programs, in effect prevent African-American male youth from obtaining basic educational and employment skills, while incarcerated, is major contributor to them going back to a life that legitimizes illegitimate gain and criminality.

Miller (2010) points out that even when rehabilitation programs are implemented, in spite of the disproportionate number of African-American male youth incarcerated, White male youth tend to be given a greater opportunity to criminal justice/prison rehabilitative sentences and services Huddleton and Marlowe (2011) explain that this is particularly true as it relates to substances abuse treatment. In their findings, it was noted that of the 109,000 detainees eligible for the Drug Court program only 21% of African-Americans are sentenced to the program where 62% are White. Those evaluating eligibility tend to deny African-American based on past criminal behaviors. In most cases individuals with violent offenses are not eligible (Huddleton and Marlowe, 2011).

Huddleton and Marlowe (2011) explain that with certain in- prison programs, judges are reluctant and prosecutors are reluctant to recommend sentencing African-American male youth to these programs. This has a significant impact on a great number of African-American offenders who need rehabilitation. Huddleton and Marlowe further point out that representation of African-Americans in jails and prisons is nearly twice that of both Drug Courts and probation. Miller (2010) posits that this is a result of racism inherent in the criminal justice complex. This is the very complex that perpetuate the issue of recidivism.

The Rand Corporation Report (2006) points out that recidivism is lowered by 43% among inmates who are willing to participate in correctional education programs, the odds of obtaining a job after release, is 13% higher than those who do not participated. These findings indicate that more African-American male youth who participate in correctional programs have a better chance of not becoming repeated offenders. Walsh and Kossom (2007) posit that the lack of prison rehabilitation programs causes prisoners to become dependents on the prevailing social structure once released. Social constraints related to poverty, unemployment, substance abuse as well as being faced with inequality, created a “criminality of hopelessness” (a personally coined term indicating African-American male youth ex-offenders feelings of hopelessness and despair). With prisoners now faced with long-sentences, unemployment, homelessness, and a physical or mental disorders the need for intervention are very appropriate. (National Institute of Justice, 2013).

Problem Ramifications

The release of prisoners without any educational, employment, and cognitive restructuring addressing anti-social behaviors has a negative impact on the communities they are released in. The “get tough on crime” initiative in many places has proved disastrous. The African-American Forum (2013) points out that, in spite of their ‘get tough on campaign’ over recent years, violent crime rates have increased as well as the incarceration and re-incarceration of offenders. Prisoners released, without the proper preparation, breeds recidivism; the largest group being African-American male youth. Burden (2009) posits that given the situation of offenders being released  to high areas of poverty and criminality, criminal recidivism is almost a certainty. Burden makes it clear that the criminal justice system does very little to reintroduce them back in their communities.

Miller (2010) points out that the most discouraging aspect to this problem is the prevailing view by many African-Americans is this is a result of racial discrimination and the consequences of this is resentment and anger among African-American male youth, Schwartz (2013) explains unfortunately, this anger and resentment is turned inward towards their own community and created victims among their own community members. Schwartz statistics demonstrates that 1 out of 15 offenders of crime are African-American male youth as opposed to 1 out of every 104 White. Unfortunately a major amount of African-American offenses are aimed at African-American victims.
Miller (2010) explains that this particularly true since the introduction of crack cocaine to the African-American community. This has led to Black on Black crime which has substantially increased  the incarceration and re-incarceration rate of African-American. Miller posits that the impact of the United States drug policy has had very little to no effect on the African-American community. Miller posits that, though the issue of drug abuse has been at the center of American policy debate since the 1970s, crack raise the stakes. The inability to adequately counteract the drug epidemic and address other socioeconomic issues has certainly contributed greatly to the high recidivism among African-American male youth.

In reviewing these issues, it is important to ask some very important and investigative questions. One such question is what are the primary causes of this problem? Is addressing the symptoms of this problem in the long run creating a greater problem? Is the problem so astronomical that rate of African-American male youth recidivism is inevitability? Wernsman (2009) explains the readmission of African-American male youth back into the criminal justice system is an almost certainty without assistance. Their plight, without that rehabilitative assistance, is a hard uphill battle for them to stay crime free. Because of their return back into the very communities that led them to criminal activities, the question has to be asked: Is there a greater opportunity for them to return to criminal behaviors?

Historical Perspective and Justification for Change

Reisig et al (2007) explain that during the 1970s laws aimed at punishing felons with longer and harsher sentences were enacted resulted in a 300 % increase in the amount of persons incarcerated. The impact that this would have on ex-offenders and the communities to which many of them were returned was not given much thought by law enforcement officials. The inability to find employment and in many cases uneducated placed a burden on society. Wernsman (2009) explains that the policies of the 70s resulted in over 100,000 youth 20 years old and under being released from incarceration annually. Wernsman goes on to point out that over two-thirds of them will be re-arrested within a few years. With the already over burden prison system the re-incarceration rate taxes the criminal justice system even greater. Wernsman further explains that nearly 60% of these are African-American males. Reisig (2007) explained that about 50% of individuals releases will re-enter the prison system with African-American male youth reaching as high as 25 % higher than that of White male youth. The result of the socioeconomic issues in African-American community has left these individual little options and many return to crime. Wernsman (2009) explains that while research is limited as to the exact cause for the overwhelming recidivism rate, it is believed that this situation is a fit between the person’s attitude and environmental factors.

Lamb and Metz (2011) point out that historically the criminal justice system has done little or nothing to rehabilitate prisoners. In researching this problem Lamb and Metz found that the system just simply waits for crime to occur, investigate the act and believe that arresting the suspect solve the problem. Lamb and Metz posits that the criminal justice system process, for whatever reason, has shown limited vision as it relates to crime. In their evaluation of the present system a sad picture is painted that the criminal justice system unfortunately believes that punishment will provide regulation to society and punitive enforcement are effective has shown to be disastrous. Lamb and Metz research has found just the opposite. It found that harsher and longer sentences only increases the prospect of increased criminal behavior and ultimately result in recidivism. Their research concludes that even the most violent criminals must be given feelings that life still has meaning. Therefore education, job training, substance abuse and mental health treatment is essential. This traditionally has not been the modus operandi of the criminal justice system.

Blomberg, Bales and Piquero (2012) conducted a sample research study on the effects of inadequate education on recidivism. The study consisted of 4,147 delinquent’s 86% male and 57% non-White, the average age around 17 years. Bloomberg et al found that youth with above average education were most likely to return to school after release. However those with less adequate education or substandard education were more likely to be re-incarcerated within one year of release. Among African-American males preventive efforts suggest that better education help them to develop better employment skills and ambition. This is significant because Blomberg et al study indicated that academic achievement indirectly and directly reduces recidivism.

Wernsman (2009) agrees that the lack of educational achievement contributes to recidivism. Her study however established that the disproportionate rate of recidivism among African-American male youth is both theoretical and empirical as it relates to the response of African-Americans to the criminal justice system. Wernsman’s research support evidence that the high rate of recidivism among African-American male youth ranges from conceptualization to the cognitive processes of the African-American culture in relationship to the dominate culture.Wernsman’s research concluded that the lack of intervention by the criminal justice system create a continuum of repeating criminal activities African-American male youth.

Though the research of Mandracchia and Morgan (2010) did not disavow that conceptualization ideal their research found that the rate of recidivism among African-American male youth was primarily caused by how the criminal justice system processes African-American male youth through system. Their study found that as a result disparity in the criminal justice system, African-American develop resistance to any direction given by that system. Mandracchia and Morgan in a canonical correction analysis also found that criminal justice spends 60 billion dollars annually on prisons and reinforcing the get tough on crime activities but this has not proven to significantly reducing recidivism.
Mandracchia and Morgan (2010) study also found that the promotion of the ideology of getting tough crime as it is presently manifested develop certain implications that has an effect on the African-American male youth psychic which has cause resentment and created criminal responses by that population. There is no question that their sense of hopelessness and despair promulgates a cycle of criminal thinking and behavior. Their research suggested that a high rate of recidivism can be identified by the basic offender’s characteristics. Mandracchia and Morgan research indicated that a 2007 study of adolescents found a higher level of criminal thinking and this is primarily associated with criminal history, drug use, familial dysfunction, and behavioral disorders. Addressing this issue must be of primary concern to society.

Miller (2010) offered an even different perspective on African-American male youth recidivism. Miller’s research examined the criminal justice system and found that it is inherently racist and American Federalism is the culprit. Miller’s research concluded that because the political system places limitations on minorities and particularly the overpopulated African-American male youth population, the criminal justice sentencing process creates a recycling of criminal behavior. This is also consistent with the findings of Mandracchia and Morgan (2010). Her analysis  found that American Federalism and the prevention of African-American male youth having access to the fruits enjoyed by the dominate culture accounted for continued criminal behaviors. Miller’s research and that of Mandracchia and Morgan research however both contended isolated feeling and low self esteem have an effect on these issues. Without criminal justice efforts to rehabilitative hope for change may be irreversible.

Brown (2009)  evaluated the relationship between substance abuse and the rate of recidivism. Brown discovered that over the last three decades the incarceration rate for drug offense has increased dramatically. Brown found that it increased from 100 per 100,000 in 1970 to 491 to 100,000 in 2005. Brown discovered that roughly of the 2,085,620 prisoners in the United States and of that number 508,623 are serving in either prison or jail for drug related offenses. Brown discovered that the cost for incarcerations is around 8 billion dollars annually.

Brown found, consist with other studies, that there are a disproportionate rate of incarceration of African-American versus that of Whites. African-American comprises 12% of the population of the United States however 53% are incarcerated for drug related offenses. These offenses range from using illegal drugs to sells. This disparity is not only troubling but unfortunate. Different from the literature that has examined concerning poverty, unemployment, and racism, the implication of this phenomenon is more a de-facto consequence of all three issues. Different and more disturbing than Brown’s assessment of the issue are the findings of Walsh and Kossom (2007) that contend that psychopathy play a major role in criminal behavior. Walsh and Kossom conducted a quantitative random sample study at Northeast Illinois county jail of 199 male inmates’ ages 17-40; 108 of which were African-American. In determining the tendency towards psychopathic behaviors African-Americans had a percentage of 26.72% as opposed to European Americans at 24.44 %. The psychopathy assessment was administered using the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). These findings are particularly unsettling because it points to a whole generation of potentially violent repeat offenders among African-American male youth.

Articles Related to Social and Economic Disparities

Researchers seem to believe that socioeconomic disparities as well as a modern era of racism has more than just a marginal impact on this situation. Situations related to unemployment, substandard education, racial treatment of African-Americans by the criminal justice system as well as other issues requires intense and expert research. In evaluating the issue of African-American male youth criminal recidivism, it’s important to first look at how the criminal justice system historically has related to African-Americans. In a research article entitled “Racial and Ethnic Disparity and Criminal Justice” by Robert D. Crutchfield, April Fernandez, and Jorge Martinez (2010) explain that the post-antebellum period brought about a different form of slavery. It was known as the convict’s leasing system which emerged in the Southern states (this was a penal system that created in effect de-facto slavery). Crutchfield research found that convicts, disproportionately African-American, were leased to plantation owners to work their fields as they had done as slaves before the Emancipation. Their research discovered that the mentality of the present day criminal justice system basically operates from that same frame of mind. Prisoners are just products to gain income particularly the disproportionate African-American male youth population.

Crutchfield research found that  funding for inmate’s housing and food is based on a per capita formulation, so the number of incarcerated prisoners support the criminal justice system budgets. Therefore, there is more than sufficient incentive for them to increase their incarcerated populations. Their research found that among criminal justice officials incarceration was the first priority of the criminal justice system not rehabilitation. This is unformulated because research shows that cultural sensitive rehabilitation counselors and programs aimed at African-American male youth are needed. They are essential to reverse the trend towards the continuation of African-American disproportionate representation in prisons and recidivism.

In support of this assertion, Mark H. Chae, Anthonia Adegbesan, Sharon Hirsch, Danny Wolstein, Alex Shay, and Kristen Schiro (2010) in an article entitled “Relationship of Racial identity to Cultural Competence and Self-Esteem among Rehabilitation Counseling Graduate Students” explain that even when African-American are provided rehabilitative services many rehabilitation counselors need to have training in cultural diversity and sensitivity. Without this training, their research concluded that this process must be implemented in order for counselors to provide effective interventions and cultural relative treatment plans. This type of meaningful rehabilitation is needed to provide service sensitive to persons of different colors and /or culture. Chae et al research posits that counselors are most effective when their therapeutic process reflect psychosocial influences, cultural beliefs and values, issues of diversity. This is extremely important in providing counseling to African-American male youth because of their resentment against the “White power structure”.

Viewing the issue of African-American male youth recidivism from a different perspective, Firouz Fallahi, Hamed Pourtaghi, and Gabriel Rodriguez (2012) in an article entitled “The Unemployment rate, Unemployment volatility, and Crime” explain that unemployment promotes criminal activity in  the persons who are unemployed and its tends to have a greater motivation to commit crime than when one is employed. Their research demonstrated that the need to meet basic monetary and essential needs as well as the emotional desire to boost self-esteem causes the temptation to commit offenses to increase. This situation particularly affects African-American male youth as a result of high unemployment in the African-American community. Fallahi point out the among African-American the unemployment rate is at about 13.5% as opposed to that of Whites which is between 6 to 7%. The inability to find stable and meaningful employment not only places African-American male youth at an economic disadvantage but encourages criminal behavior. Fallahi (2012) further explained that not only does the unemployment rate contribute to minor crimes but the uncertainty of the future coupled with the conditional variation of employment numbers is an important reason for the commission of major crimes such as: burglary, larceny, and motor-theft. Employment skill training is essential for released prisoners.

Assessing another view related to African-American male youth recidivism, is an article entitled “Substance Abuse Hinders Desistance in Young Adults’ Anti-social Behavior” by Andrea M. Hussong, Patrick J. Curran, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avsahalom Caspi and Madeline M. Carrig (2004) these authors examined the effects of substance abuse on changing anti-social behavior among young adults. Hussong et al research contends that substance abuse among young adults hinders changing anti-social behaviors. This has wide implication for African-American male youth because statistics show that a large proportion of their incarceration is a result of either drug use or other drug related offenses. As a result of their investigation Hussong et al put forth two hypotheses: (1) substance abuse enhances anti-social behavior in young adults and (2) early substance use could be a predictor of long-term anti-social behaviors which goes beyond adolescents into adulthood. These contentions provide important reasons why substance abuse issues should be addressed as a part of criminal justice rehabilitation programs.

While substance abuse treatment is extremely necessary, the lack of adequate education causes major problems on prisoners released as it relates to obtaining employment and good general self esteem.In an article entitled “Is Educational Achievement a Turning Point for Incarcerated Delinquents across Race and Sex”? Thomas Blomberg, William Bales and Alex R. Piquero (2012) point out that few incarcerated juveniles graduate from high school or even earn a GED and many do not return to school after released. This, in effect, creates a problem for society. Blomberg et al, investigation note that adolescents who have problems with school are more likely to have problems in society. Blomberg et al explained that as a result, individuals are unable to meet the minimum educational standards of the community. Blomberg et al found that as result of inadequate education those leaving prison are often looked down upon by society. This creates feelings of low self-esteem which is manifested in anger. Rehabilitation programs aimed at providing basic societal educational requirements are essential, especially, for African-American youth who still lag behind Whites. Successfully completing these programs is essential  because of the many disadvantages African-Americans, in general, have to overcome early in life.

Problem Solution

In reviewing the problems related to African-American male youth rate of recidivism, it is essential to determine a solution that is effective in addressing this issue. One recommended solution is that for each State establish a Criminal Justice Reinvestment Council. The reason the term reinvestment is used because there are some that feel the initial investment has been primary incarceration. This council would consist of 9 members; two businessmen, two democrats, two republicans, one ex-offender, 1 former prisoner employees and 1 person elected statewide. The council would be paid an annual salary for their services. This council would have the whole weight of the governor’s office to implement, evaluate, and sanction prison officials and programs geared at statewide prisoner rehabilitation.

The council would have a staff and their primary function would be three –fold. One: implement with the council’s approved rehabilitation programs in all prisons; two, evaluate programs effectiveness based on outcomes; and three; sanction those prison systems that fail to meet expectations. Sanctions could range from allowing time to implement corrective measures to recommending the removal of wardens.
Given the history of efforts to rehabilitate criminals, a program must be put in place that is accessible, accountable and reach the prisoners who need it the most. Therefore a three prong program that focuses on employment, education, and cognitive restructuring is needed. One such recommended process would be a program that its primary purpose is not only to rehabilitate but to reinvest in ex-offenders. It is essential that a program be established that place emphasis on minorities in general and the overly populated African-American male youth specifically. Research has shown that many of these individual are unemployed and in many cases, the lack of completing high school make them unemployable; a vital piece to the whole process of rehabilitation.

Any solution to this issue must be comprehensive and measurable. Therefore the following process is recommended for implementation:

1. The project must be comprehensive. It must be a program that is designed for those who need it the most regardless of their past criminal record. Phelps (2011) points that programs should focus on the type of correctional facility; adequate staffing; and ways to encourage inmate participation. Phelps (2011) explains that the implementation of this process, from a theoretical standpoint, is essential in demonstrating the difference between whether the effort is punitive or of a rehabilitative nature. The program must be cultural sensitive and the counselors should be trained in cultural diversity. The program must be made accessible to all races and its primary objective is to reduce recidivism. Mandracchia and Morgan (2010) posit that any treatment process should focus on anti-social behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and enhancing positive cognitive processing.

2. The project should be measurable. The council’s staff must establish measurable goals for each implemented program. Each prison should have expected outcomes. A certain number of persons should be expected to complete the programs. African-American male youth and other minorities must be sufficiently represented in those outcomes. The Council’s staff should be allowed to conduct quarterly audits of programs to ensure two things: One, the way the funds are being allocated and two the number of graduates. The Council’s staff would have the authority to go unannounced in the prisons at any time and observe the program.

Three Prong Program

The first component of this program would be job development. This program would reach out to the business community and state governments in creating an offender hiring reinvestment project. The highlight of this component would be two-fold: One establishes a tax credit for businesses that participate and two, establish a 50,000 bond for persons who graduate from the prison job training programs. This bond would be established to cover any losses suffered by the businesses as result of this program. This component of the program would, in addition, provide resume building skills process, how to dress appropriate for an interview classes, and the questions that could be expected in an interview. The program would provide skills training designed towards jobs that businesses participating indicate are available. Prisoners completing the program would go before the parole board and the board would evaluate them based on status and prison behavior. Those who have acceptable behavior would be placed on parole with the condition of being hired by the businesses participating in the program.

The second component of the program would concentrate on educational development. Blomberg, Bales and Piquero (2012) explains that education is a vital part of preventing recidivism. The main objective of educational development program would be to improve the overall education of program participates. In some cases offenders may need to get a GED in other situation there may be a need or desire, on the part of some offenders, to get college degrees or certificates. Classes would be set up on prison grounds and instructors would come directly to the prison. There would be agreements reached between the program and educational institutions to provide free books and other materials.

The three component of this program would be the establishment of cognitive behavioral therapeutic individual and group counseling. Criminal self-identification and criminal association play a large part in criminal thinking (Mandracchia and Morgan, 2010). Hussong et al point out that anti-social behaviors become a major reason for continued criminal behaviors. Their research concluded two theories. (1) That anti-social behavior is relative to one’s individual development and is trajectory. In addition, this individual development towards anti-social behavior is increased by the abuse of substances and (2) early in young adulthood the use of substances slows an individual’s overall criminal desistance and are consistent with offender’s norms. Therefore individual and group counseling should be established with a theoretical emphasis on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The group and individual population counselors should be trained in cultural diversity and have the ability to assist all members of the group. In as much as substance abuse increases criminal thinking and anti-social behaviors CBT should also be implemented to assist those who have demonstrated extreme anti-social behavior and substance abuse disorders. In addition, those identified with having mental or emotional issues should be given the necessary treatments. Appropriate assistance and interventions have shown to reduce recidivism as much as 16% (Mitchell, 2010).

Advantages and Barriers of Implantation

The advantages of the three prong program are that it will be held accountable for successful outcome. The ability to sanction prison and programs that fail to meet expectation is a very essential aspect of the program and would be possibly be unprecedented. Several other issues that are advantages rest in the partnership of business and government as well as colleges and universities. The program would have the whole support and authority of the governor’s office. This would cause wardens and other criminal justice officials to think twice about the importance of rehabilitation. The incentive to ensure the success of the program as a result of this council would ensure that rehabilitation would become the prisons primary priority.

The barriers of the program would be getting state legislators to endorse such an idea particular in those state that have a law and order philosophy. Another disadvantage, if the program is implemented, it would require a dramatic change in prison schedules. Guards at the prisons would need to take prisoners back forth to class and make food available at different times. This may cause resentment on the part of Guards who in turn may be taken out on prisoners. The most important barrier to overcome would be the attitudes citizens of the states affected about the cost of the program. Last but not least the wardens may feel that their control of the prison may be compromised.


In conclusion the continual high rate of recidivism among African-American male youth is a tragedy. It seems that society, though concern, and is not willing to put neither the effort nor the energy into resolving this issue. An important example of the success of rehabilitation efforts however is in the State of Texas where just two years ago the State had the second largest inmate population however as of this year it is fourth resulting from rehabilitative efforts. (Ward, 2013), The State was able to considerable reduce the percentage of the criminal justice budget. In convincing the citizens of this country about the need for criminal rehabilitation/intervention, the example of Texas would provide a great argument.

The overpopulation of American prisons in general must be addressed but the over representation of African-American male youth must be overcome. If the goal of the criminal justice system is to implement effective and accessible rehabilitation, the philosophy of the criminal justice system must change. Rehabilitation programs must truly be its first priority of the criminal justice system. The accessibility of programs to African-Americans and other minorities is especially appropriate. When the criminal justice system sends these individual back into society uneducated and unskilled it only increases the chances of criminal recidivism. This policy is just not working.

The articles presented in this assessment demonstrate that African-American male youth recidivism is a major problem. More importantly the authors that researched the material demonstrated that without effective action taken by the criminal justice system to develop effective rehabilitation programs accessible to African-American male youth the high rates of recidivism will continue to be an issue. Each element presented in this presentation point to a need for corrective action. Whether correcting the issue of a system that promotes racial and ethnic disparity, the lack of developing programs that assistance with employment skills or developing effective cognitive behavioral treatment criminal recidivism, the challenges must be met. If these challenges are not met a whole generation of African-Americans could be lost. The most unfortunate aspect of this is that next generation may also be affected.

Society has made some steps towards reversing the punitive philosophy it has created over the last 25 years. There does seemed to be efforts in some states to see the advantage of rehabilitating criminal rather than just merely locking up criminals. If American is every going to reduce recidivism, substantially, a joint effort on the part government, the business community, and the community at large must work to attack this issue at the root. Continuing the present policy of excessive and selective incarceration, especially African-American male youth, must come to an end. This cannot continue to be the ongoing plight of African-American male youth.


African-American Forum (2013) More Blacks on probation and parole. Retrieved November 15, 2013 from

Blomberg, T. G., Bales, W. D., and Piquero, A. R. (2012), Is educational achievement a turning point for incarcerated delinquents across race and sex. J Youth Adolesence, 41, 202-216.

Boulger, Bostwick and Powers (2012), Examining re-arrest and re-incarceration of youth committed for court evaluation. Chicago, Illinois: Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

Brown, R. (2009), Drug treatment court: Participant, processes, and substance abuse treatment completion. (Doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from

Burden, F. F. (2009), Examining paroles in their communities: Poverty, reality, and criminal resources. (Doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from

Bureau of Justice Assistance (2011) Second Change Act. Retrieved November 17, 2013 from

Chae, M. H., Adegbesan, H., Wolstein,S., Shay, D. A. and Schuro, K. (2010), Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 41, 4, 21-29.

Crutchfield, R. D., Fernandes, A., and Martinez, J. (2010), Racial and ethnic disparity and criminal justice: How much too much? Journal of /Criminal Law and Criminology, 100.3, 903-932.

Darendbourg, Perez, and Blake (2013),  Over-representation of African-American male in exclusionary discipline: the role of school-based mental health professionals in dismantling the school to prison pipeline. Journal of African-American Males in Education 1, (3), pp.198-209.

Fallahi, F., Poutaghi, H., Rodriguez, G. (2012), the unemployment rate, unemployment volatility, and crime. International Journal of Social Economics, 29.6, 440-448.

Harrison and Beck (2004), Prisoners in 2003. Washington DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Hussong, A, M., Curran, P. J., Moffitt, T. E., Caspi, A., and Carrig, M. M. (2004), Substance abuse hinders desistance in young adults’ anti-social behavior. Development and Psychopathology 16, pp.1029-1046.

Huddleton, W. and Marlowe, D. B. (2011), Painting the current picture: A national report on Drug Court and other problem solving court programs in the United States. Alexandria, VA: National Drug Court Institute.

Jackson, H. (2009), Power, policy, and the ideology of punishment: Time series analysis of the U.S. political economy of punishment in the race to incarcerate, 1972-2002. (Doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from

Kroner, D. G, and Yessine, A. K. (2013), Changing risk factors that impact recidivism: In search of mechanisms of change. Law and Human Behavior, 17, (5), pp. 321-336.

Lamb, R. C. and Metz, G. J. (2011), Crime, incarceration, and programing: The bottom line. American Jails, 25, (1), pp.21-26.

Mandracchia and Morgan (2010), The relationship between status variables and criminal thinking in an offender population. Psychological Services, 7, (1), pp. 27-33.

Miller L (2010), the invisible Black victim: How American Federalism perpetuates racial inequality in criminal justice. Law Society and Review, 44, (3/4) 805-842.

National Institute of Justice (2013), Beyond the prison bubble. Retrieved November 16, 2013 from

National Summit on Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety (2011), Addressing recidivism, crime, and corrections spending. New York, NY: The Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Phelps, M. (2011), Rehabilitation in the punitive era: the gap between rhetoric and reality in US prison programs. Law and Society Review, 45, (1), 33-68.
Reed, W. (2010), We fall down: Recidivism among African-Americans. Retrieved November 16, 2013 from http://

Reisig, M. D., Bates, W. D., Hay, C. and Wong, X. (2007), the effect of racial inequality on Black male recidivism. Justice Quarterly, 24, (3), pp.409-434.

Schwartz, S. Hoye, J. James, T. Conoscenti, Johnson, R. and Liebschutz, J. (2010), Challenges to engage Black males victims of community violence in healthcare research: Lessons learned from two studies. Psychological Trauma: theory, Research, Policy, and Practice, 2, (1), pp.54-62.

Siegel, E .A, Wagaman, M. A. Gerdes, K. E. (2012), Developing the Social Empathy Index: An exploratory factor analysis Social Work, 13, (3), 541-560.

The Center for Disease Control (2013), Homicide rates among males aged 10-24. Retrieved November 15, 2013 from

The Rand Corperation (2013), Evaluating the effectiveness of correctional education. Retrieved November 15, 2013 from

Walsh, Z. and Kossom, D.S. (2007), A prospective study of the influence of socioeconomic status and ethnicity. Law and Behavior, 31, (2), pp.1-28

Ward, M. ( 2013), Texas prison population shrinks as rehabilitation programs take root. Retrieved November 14, 2013 from

Wernsman ,J. R. (2009) “Youth Reentry among African-American Males”. (doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from http://www.searchproquesr,


About lester long Jr.

Lester Long Jr. has a Master of Science degree in Psychology from Walden University, a Certificate in Professional Counseling from Capella University. He has a BS in Public Administration and Political Science from Western Michigan University. He is also Certified in Clinical Supervision and an Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium. He is Certified as a Peer Specialist in the State of Georgia. Mr. Long is also a former member of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners in Kalamazoo County, Michigan.. Please leave any comments for Lester Long at
This entry was posted in Social Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Criminal Recidivism: the Plight of African American Male Youth?

  1. Please leave a comment for Lester Long at

  2. Please leave any comments on this or any other article of Lester Long jr at

Comments are closed.