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Why prison sentences can increase reoffending

On Behalf of | Nov 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There is a widely held belief that prison is designed to stop people from reoffending. If someone is convicted of a crime, they serve their punishment behind bars. When they get out, now understanding what the ramifications will look like, they are less likely to commit more crimes in the future. Additionally, some will say that the mere threat of prison time itself can act as a deterrent that can prevent crime.

But neither of these beliefs appears to be true. In fact, prison may even make reoffending more likely. Why is it that the system doesn’t work, if so many people are convinced that it does?

Changing the course of someone’s life

The issue lies in the fact that a prison sentence can change the path someone’s life is on and, as some experts have put it, that sentence destabilizes their life.

For example, say that someone is convicted of selling drugs as they try to make ends meet. As a result, they have to drop out of high school or college and spend time behind bars. When they get released, they don’t have an education and they do have a criminal record, so they find it impossible to get a job. This means that even their basic needs, like food and shelter, go unmet.

Is that person really going to refrain from selling drugs in the future? Or are they now in a position in which they may feel like selling drugs is the only option they have to turn even a small amount of income? When someone’s life is destabilized, it may make them more likely to break the law.

It’s important to understand how the prison system works, the impact it has and the legal options that people have when accused of breaking the law.