My goal when I write a book that I consider crime fiction (Dysfunctional & D&R), is to make it as realistic as possible. This means I study a lot of crime (true crime, crime stats, prison stats, etc) along with sociological and psychological issues. Recently, I read a scholarly article that recidivism rates were on the rise. Now, this is not uncommon during times of economic hardship, but then I noticed the article was dated 2017. Anyway, I had to go find more information. Recidivism (or the rate at which a person who has committed a crime reoffends) has always been very different based on the type of crime committed.
Non-violent criminals reoffend at much, much lower rates than violent criminals. Non-violent criminals include burglars, shoplifters, and vandals – crimes in which property is damaged or stolen but no one is injured and no weapons are involved. This group also includes most of your low level drug dealers (people who sell pot out of their houses or on the street corner). After spending time in a prison the recidivism rate for this group is about 35%. Except for pot dealers where it’s about 40%.
Violent offenders are way more likely to reoffend after prison. However, violent offenders should also be defined, because some of those placed in this category might surprise you. High level drug dealers (people who deal meth, cocaine, fentanyl, or drug traffickers) are automatically labelled as violent offenders. Armed robbers even if they don’t commit assault or attempt to shoot anyone are also immediately considered violent offenders. And then you have the ones you expect; murderers, rapists, people prone to beating up other people (domestic abusers, gang enforcers, etc.), and all criminals associated with organized crime (mafia, gang, cartel… and sometimes even cult members will be put into this violent offender group). This groups recidivism rate is 60% although much like the above mentioned marijuana dealers some groups have much higher recidivism rates. Rapists have a 68% recidivism rate. Pedophiles have a 73% recidivism rate. While those are disturbing high level drug dealers have the highest recidivism rate at 77%.
I have a theory on this, since I nearly always have a theory on everything crime related. I believe it has something to do with personality disorders (there are 12 of them I think). No, this doesn’t mean all violent criminals really just need time in a hospital for the criminally insane, they absolutely should go to prison. But personality disorders whether it’s ASPD or Borderline Personality Disorder are a special type of mental illness. Unlike Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia there are almost no medications to treat personality disorders. You can treat some of the symptoms in some people, but for the most part, the only treatment for the majority is talk therapy and it has extremely varied degrees of results, for example ASPD is rarely affected by therapy of any sort.
What it does mean is that people with personality disorders are incapable of being rehabilitated in prisons or asylums for the criminally insane. You can’t put a rapist on a magic pill and change their abnormal thought patterns nor can you talk them into changing their way of thinking in group therapy or individual therapy or family therapy. And 68 out of 100 rapists will rape someone else after they get out of prison.
And since I used rapist as my example above, let’s emphasize that chemical castration is also not a magic cure and physical castration wouldn’t cure it either. It’s not just about the act itself, if the offender can’t get an erection they will use substitutes (sex toys, inanimate non-sexual items, etc) because it’s a way of thinking. Same for pedophiles.
Horrifyingly; if recidivism rates are rising this is an indication that there are more serial criminals. People only think of serial criminals in terms of serial killers such as Gary Ridgway or serial rapists like Vince Champ who killed none of his 8 victims. However, a person who rapes someone, then serves a prison sentence only to get out and repeat the crime is technically a serial rapist… even if they serve a sentence between each rape, once they have raped 3 victims they are a serial rapist.
Perhaps that is an indication that we do need some serial criminal laws to be enacted at a state or federal level. Repeat offender laws have mostly gone by the wayside in the last 2 decades, but maybe they shouldn’t have. Also, maybe life in prison for repeat violent offenders should indeed mean life in prison without the possibility of parole once you qualify as a serial violent offender (which would require only 3 victims, so a man arrested for molesting 2 children would immediately qualify as a serial molester if he molested a 3rd child after serving a prison sentence.