Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal? Attitudes towards Reintegration of Released Prisoners among Israeli Public

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

Once a Criminal, Always a Criminal? Attitudes towards Reintegration of Released Prisoners among Israeli Public

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the attitudes of different groups toward the reintegration of released prisoners in Israeli society, characterized by the groups' ability to directly or indirectly contribute to the prisoners' reintegration in normative society. The sample included 551 subjects divided into three groups: Representatives of the law enforcement system, owners or managers of businesses of different sizes, and members of the general public. A mapping sentence, defining a specific world of content, was defined for each of the three groups. Using this mapping sentence, the researchers constructed a separate questionnaire for each test group, phrased according to Likert scale. The findings of this study suggest that, at declarative level, a high percentage of the subjects express sympathetic attitudes towards the reintegration of released prisoners in the community, and their rehabilitation within it. However, it should be noted that there is often a gap between a person's stated position and his/her actual behavior. We can conclude that members of the Israeli public do not declaratively express an extreme position against reintegration of released prisoners. The findings of this study suggest that it would be beneficial to increase public awareness in Israel of the advantages of rehabilitating and reintegrating released prisoners in the community.

Key words: Israel; Released prisoners; Public attitudes

INTRODUCTION

Approximately 7,400 incarcerated offenders are released every year from Israeli prisons. Only a few are integrated in normative society and find proper occupation (State Comptroller's Report, 2014). Nearly half return to commit felonies, and are re-incarcerated (Ben-Zvi & Wolk, 2011). Almost all those convicted and incarcerated eventually return to live within the community.

In 2011, the Israeli Interior Ministry estimated that in addition to the danger to society, repetitive criminality has cost Israel approximately 14.4 billion NIS, i.e. about 2% of gross national production. The work plan of the Ministry for 2012 set out an objective of "strengthening efforts to correct and assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners and their integration in society, and reduction of recidivism". However, the report published by the State Comptroller two years later determines that the interim goals and milestones of this program have yet to be established. Reintegrating released prisoners into society after various periods of incarceration are presented in the literature as the stage with the highest risk for criminal recidivism. A study performed in the USA by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 68% of all people released from state prisons were reincarcerated within three years, and that nearly half (43%) of these re-incarcerations occur during the first six months of release (Langan & Levin, 2012). Weissburd, Shoham, Ariel, Manspfeiszer and Gideon (2011) also found that during the first year after release from prison, around 55% of prisoners convicted of drug offenses and who did not undergo intensive treatment in prison, were re-arrested.

One of the common explanations for these bleak statistics is the negative general attitude that normative society has towards released prisoners (Petersilia, 2003; Travis, 2002). The road to rehabilitation for released prisoners is paved with difficulties and depends on a multitude of factors. Some of these depend on the prisoner, processes he underwent within the prison system, environmental factors, and treatment and rehabilitation frameworks he attended post-release. During recent years, various theories and programs have been developed to treat and rehabilitate criminals after their release from prison (for a wider review on the subject, see Maguire & Raynor, 2006). The term 'Re-entry' describes the process of a prisoner's transfer from prison back to the community (Gideon & Sung, 2011; Ward «fe Maruna, 2007), based on the assumption that to rehabilitate a released prisoner a therapeutic continuum must be maintained between treatment programs received in prison and post-release therapy and monitoring frameworks (Seiter «fe Kadela, 2003; Travis, 2005; Shoham, Yehosha-Stem, Efodi, & Diamant, 2010). …

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