Categories
Recidivism

The Missing Man in
Prison Reform: Father Figures

A family has always been an integral factor in a person’s development. When a parent is absent, children must rely on other sources to mold their concepts about the world. Traditionally, the father figure in families provides children with security, discipline, and guidance for morals and everyday life. When the father is absent, children may have a less balanced view of the world around them and often turn to risky behavior to seek approval from surrogate father figures. This can lead to delinquency, crime, and incarceration when left unaddressed. Learn how this “missing man” concept relates to the father factor and increases crime and incarceration rates for youth and adults.

The “Father Factor” Defined

According to the U.S. Census, there are an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the United States. 24.7 million of those have children under the age of 18 and live as a married couple in the same household. Two million fathers are single parents, but only 17 percent of those have full-time custody of their children.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that out of the 1.5 million total inmates (male and female) in the United States, over 809,000 were parents of minor children. Depending on the race, between 45 and 70 percent of all male inmates reported having at least one minor child. Only 35 percent of fathers incarcerated in state prisons reported living with at least one of their biological children in the month prior to their arrest.

The father factor refers to the effects upon children when their biological fathers are absent. In addition to effects such as increased delinquency, crime rates, and incarceration, the absence of a biological father also impacts:

  • Mother and child health
  • Emotional and behavioral development
  • Teen pregnancy rates
  • Reduction of education levels achieved
  • Increased child abuse
  • Increased drug and alcohol abuse
  • Childhood obesity

How Absent Fathers Affect Crime Rates

Good relationships between a biological father and his children reduce the risk of adolescent misbehavior that leads to crime, as well as reducing criminal behavior itself. When fathers are present in the home, adolescents are less likely to commit delinquent acts. When communication and a positive relationship exists between a child and an in-home father, delinquency rates are decreased even further. This is especially true for male children.

But when the father is absent, the risk for his children to commit crime goes up — and so does the risk for other children in the neighborhood. Studies have found that not only are adolescents from single-parent homes at higher risk of committing a crime, but it also has an influence on the other adolescents attending the same schools. Risks were found to be higher for status, property and person crimes in schools with high rates of single-parent homes.

Incarceration Rates

Research has shown that incarceration rates are higher for children who grow up in homes without a biological father present. The highest rates were for those children who had never lived with their father. In a Department of Justice survey, statistics were compiled for the previous living situations of jail inmates. The survey found that:

  • 39 percent had lived in “mother-only” households.
  • 46 percent had a family member who had previously been incarcerated.
  • 20 percent were children of fathers who had been in prison or jail.

Solutions for Prison Reform

Ideally, all these problems would be solved by creating a stronger, two-parent household for all children in which the biological parents played supportive and loving roles in the development of the children throughout their entire childhoods. But reuniting parents with their children is also a viable solution for addressing these issues and suitable for prison reform.

Using a cognitive-behavioral approach to address criminogenic needs is one of the methods recommended by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. By changing attitudes, building parenting skills and confidence, increasing parental knowledge and improving family contact, programs with this approach teach men to be better dads both inside of prison and in the community once they are released.

Mentoring programs can help reduce recidivism rates and provide for a more successful reentry into the community and family life. A mentor can help educate fathers and give them a vision of what a crime-free life looks like. Encouragement and connection from someone who has been in their shoes show them that life without crime is possible and attainable.

After implementing this type of training program for incarcerated fathers within the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Kentucky experienced a 57 percent decrease in recidivism rates for men who completed the program. The program provided training while in prison to address:

  • Criminal and family history
  • Relationships with spouses and children
  • How to obtain education and employment upon release
  • Appropriate leisure and recreational activities

After release, mentors continued to train the men during their transition back into the community and their family life.

While there are many factors related to the choice of committing a crime, building a stronger family with a fatherly influence is one solution that’s achievable. Through appropriate training programs both inside and outside of prison, men can become fathers with healthy family relationships and leave behind the life of crime.

Categories
Correctional Insights

The Behavioral
Effects of Content

The Internet has drastically changed people’s behavior, from their work duties to how they make purchases. Content plays a major role in these behavioral changes, as people now have access to an unending stream of information. Millions of content pieces are created every day, from online articles to social media posts. Understanding the behavioral and intellectual effects of content in the modern age requires taking a look at the way things were during the pre-Internet era.

Knowledge Accessibility before the Internet

The Internet existed in the 1980s, but it took over a decade before it started to come into its own. Educational content was available through encyclopedias, books, magazines, television shows, documentaries, classes, and schools. Content accessibility was difficult for several reasons, depending on the medium the piece was contained in. For example, academic papers were only accessible through professional groups, colleges, and expensive academic journals.

If a reader wondered about a different point of view for a content piece, it wasn’t easy to find additional perspectives. The library provided one potential avenue for research, but specialized topic areas could be difficult to find. Tracking down transcripts of workshops, videos on the subject or subject matter experts required a lot of mailing and calling to potentially get an answer. The reader may have had to wait months or years to hear back on any inquiries. Fact checking and expanding topic information proved to be quite difficult.

The Internet Content Bombardment

The Internet started taking off in the ’90s as computer equipment became more accessible and businesses began to create web presences. Websites were not always easy to find when the Internet started establishing itself, especially before search engines existed. Once Google and other search engines and web directories began cataloging the Internet though, information became much easier to find.

Today’s Internet has over one billion websites. Blogs, social network sites, and forums have millions of users generating an endless stream of content. Businesses use content marketing and other content-heavy strategies to attract audiences and customers. The sheer amount of content available has several effects on reader behavior and education.

Buyer Behavior Changes

One major change due to content accessibility is typical buyer behavior. Before the Internet, a business controlled most of the pre-sales content process. Buyers could reach out to colleagues, friends, and family for word-of-mouth recommendations, but all other information came directly from the business. Today, buyers have a wide range of resources to consult before reaching out to a company. They can look at business reviews online, find multiple content sources to double-check pre-sales information and have broad social networks available for finding out personal experiences with a product or service.

This information allows buyers to seek out unbiased perspectives on the business. In many cases, buyers have conducted significant research into the products and services they want to buy well before reaching out to a specific company. The business content has shifted from purely promotional content to more educational assets, intended to deliver value for customers who have many business choices. This shift also works out well for businesses, as they get better-educated buyers when they connect with the company. The amount of time the sales and support team spends with buyers is significantly decreased, and many buyers seek out self-help resources before involving the company. Quick and convenient support options lead to a better customer experience, and it’s made possible by content.

Always Available Connectivity

Extensive broadband Internet penetration and expanding mobile data networks provide always available Internet connectivity. Information is a click away at all time, which provides significant opportunities for intellectual development. Smartphones make it easy to read content throughout the day during short free moments standing in line, waiting in between tasks and other activities.

Another behavioral effect of so much content is higher expectations from readers. They don’t want any content thrown their way since they have so many options to choose from. Instead, they want high quality and valuable content that helps enrich their lives in some way.

Many new content formats are available in a digital format, which provides multiple ways to learn new information. Text, visual and step-by-step learning options are available in these formats. Video streaming sites have provided an especially useful resource for people who are visual learners and prefer to watch videos instead of reading through the text.

Effects of Content and Modern Disengagement

Content is more accessible today, but it also runs the risk of leading to completely disengaged people. When there’s so much content available, just a click away, people spend a lot of their time engaging with the content instead of each other. With smartphones becoming more prevalent and powerful, people also don’t have any time where they’re not instantly connected. Creating, sharing, and engaging with content becomes the focus instead of the real-life experience, as many people experience when they’re waiting to eat while their friends snap pictures of a meal to post on Facebook and Instagram. Balancing content accessibility with keeping people present and in the moment is a major cultural issue globally.

The change from content before the Internet compared to the Internet era is striking. People have access to a never-ending stream of information that provides more informed readers than ever before. However, the amount of content can work against it due to the ease of content publishing. High-quality content sources offer significant educational opportunities, but readers need to take the time to seek out accurate information. The cultural impact of mass quantities of content is also a puzzle that needs to be addressed before it leads to people living lives entirely through their smartphones.

Categories
Correctional Insights

Noise and its Impact on Inmates
in a Correctional Facility

Prisons aren’t exactly the quietest of environments. On the other hand, popular media’s depictions of inmates shouting and banging cups against cell bars are just as unrealistic. Keeping decorum in a correctional facility may seem like challenging, but the impact of noise on guards and inmates can be detrimental to overall health. Learn the effects of jail noise on health and behavior and why auditory control should be a top priority.

What Is Noise?

Noise is hard to define due to it’s subjective nature. Typically, it is associated with either loud bursts of sound or continuous sounds of varying levels. Defining a sound as noise depends on many factors:

  • Type of sound and origin
  • Loudness and frequency
  • Duration and variance
  • Information content and relative importance
  • Emotional tolerance level of person hearing the sound
  • Background sound level

Outside of a correctional facility, a weather alert alarm, for example, may not be a welcomed sound, but it may not be unwanted because of the underlying intent to inform people of impending disaster in order to provide time to escape. In contrast, the same sound heard multiple times as part of a neighbor’s party music is more likely to gain an upgrade to “noise.” Inside a prison, noise may come from alarms, yelling, pounding, trash-talk, environmental systems (such as heating and air conditioning), kitchen or other facility equipment, or even outbursts from new inmates who may still be under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other substances.

Particular decibel (dB) levels are often used to define noise by law, but enforcement rarely takes place through precise measurement. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has defined acceptable levels for noise outside of correctional facilities as 40 dB(A) for classrooms, 50 dB(A) for general office areas and 58 dB(A) for light industrial spaces. The American Correctional Association has set noise standards for prison and jail housing units not to exceed 70 dB(A) for daytime hours and 45 dB(A) for nighttime hours. Although regulations may vary by country and setting, long-term exposure to sound above 50 dB(A) can cause serious health risks, such as heart attack and hypertension.

Adverse Health Effects

Prolonged exposure to unwanted sound can cause many health problems and lead to behavioral issues, ranging from single-episode or minimal occurrence to serious health risks leading to death. Health concerns include:

  • Annoyance
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Fatigue
  • Hearing impairment and loss
  • Immune deficiency
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cortisol and adrenaline
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo

None of these health concerns are good for any person regardless of where they reside. But when unwanted sound impacts an inmate’s health, the resulting behavior may be worse due to a limited ability to escape the noise. Increased annoyance combined with elevated cortisol and adrenaline levels produces aggressive behavior, which may create further health problems and noise. Sleep disturbance and fatigue reduce compliance with rules and tolerance of behavior and noise. The more serious health issues lead to an increased spending on medications, health monitoring, and infirmary visits.

Special Concerns for Adolescent Inmates

In correctional facilities housing adolescent offenders, noise may be even more of a problem. With increased hormone levels and fluctuations during the teen and young adult years, noise may cause even more drastic episodes of the health issues previously mentioned. Speech perception continues to develop until the early teen years, so noise exposure in the adolescent inmate population can affect cognitive development as well as physical and mental health, leading to increased behavioral problems.

Behavioral Considerations

Excessive sound levels affect more than just health. The it creates contributes to undesirable and unsafe behavior by inmates. This includes:

  • Increased aggression
  • Increased irritability
  • Decreased compliance and cooperation
  • Difficulty for staff in maintaining control and safety

The longer inmates are exposed to these effects, the more serious that their behavior, safety, and health risks may become.

Solutions for Noise Control

However, even with all these included risk-factors, complete silence may not be the answer. There are solutions to help control sound in correctional facilities. For new facilities, implementing noise-reducing design and construction processes include:

  • Incorporating acoustic materials at least an inch thick
  • Designing irregularly shaped rooms
  • Leaving air space behind acoustic materials to absorb sound

But for older facilities, sound may need to be reduced by:

  • Grafting fabric to furniture
  • Adding carpet to high-traffic areas
  • Adding acoustic materials to ceilings, walls and near other sources of sound

Budgets are often stretched, but the savings in medical supplies, stress reduction and overall environmental and attitude changes will outweigh the costs of noise-reducing materials. Reducing the amount of noise in correctional facilities will not only contribute to healthier inmates and an increased ability to deal with re-entry to society, but it will also relieve the stress of correctional staff in maintaining a safe and controlled environment.