Project Report, 2010

25 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents


Theoretical Framework

Statement of the Problem

Purpose of the Study

Review of the Literature

Previous history dynamics
Psychopathic Disorder
Educational Performance and School Discipline

Family Factors
Peer Influence
Community Factors


The design – Method and Procedures

Reference/ Bibliography



The term recidivism falls under the umbrella of Criminology, which “embraces environmental, hereditary or psychology causes of criminal behaviour, modes of investigation and conviction and the efficacy of punishment.”[1] It is considered as a critical aspect of the Criminal Justice System and refers to ‘repeated or habitual criminal behaviour’ (Taylor, 1984). The assumption made here is that, when the crime rate increases, the number of individuals committing crimes increases. In other words the rate of recidivism is increasing.

Recidivism is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behaviour after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behaviour, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behaviour. It is also known as the percentage of former prisons who are arrested.[2] Dr. Ken Pryce (1982), states that ‘recidivism simple means repetitive criminal or deviate behaviour among low income offenders and usually implies that the treatment or punishment has failed to bring about a permanent change or cure.’[3]

According to Dr Pryce, recidivism rates should be based on follow-up studies of ex-prisoners or ex-offenders, usually a five year period, to find out what really happened to them in that period after their release from penal institutions. The rate of recidivism usually refers to the percentage of the prison population with more than two previous convictions. Ramdhanie (2002)[4] estimated the total prison population in Trinidad and Tobago 4,449 (convicted adults inmates only excluding Juvenile institutions). From the data obtained, approximately 56% of the inmates (both prisoners and convicts) at the six adult prisons in Trinidad and Tobago can be deemed ‘recidivists’. Another study indicated that the most recidivistic category of prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago consists of those who commit property offences such as larceny and auto theft.[5]

Recidivism rates vary according to individual and contextual/social level risk factors. In this study the authors have identified only three individual level risk factors which include previous history dynamics, psychopathic disorder and educational performance and school discipline. The contextual or social (aggregate) level risk variables comprises of family factors, community factors and peer influence.

Theoretical Framework

Prior to delving into the subject under review, an understanding of crime and criminology will be necessary in order to better understand the phenomenon of recidivism. An understanding of crime is therefore base on the assumptions about the meaning of human existence. “All explanations of crime are therefore both moral and political and crime is therefore any act punishable by death or imprisonment.”[6]

Crime is ever changing, so it becomes difficult for criminologists to define it. What is not legal here, maybe legal in another state or country. While what isn’t banned now, might be banned tomorrow.

Criminology on the other hand focuses on “the behaviour that violates the criminal law and seeks explanations for that behaviourCriminology is the body of knowledge regarding delinquency and crime as social phenomena. It includes within its scope the process of making laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting towards the breaking of laws.”[7]

The theoretical framework in this proposal is based on the Classical and the Positivistic schools. The Classical School, founded by Caesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham posits a doctrine of free will and they believe that the individual are capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. As a result of this human beings are seen as maximising pleasure and minimising pain and that punishment can be a deterrent for crime, and the degree of punishment is related to the seriousness of the crime. The free will can be analyzed by the individual level to include individual level risk factors of recidivism which include age, gender and educational achievement.

The Positivistic school in criminology founded by Cesare Lombroso and Enrico Ferri, rejects the Classical school idea on the doctrine that it is individual’s behaviour is based on free will. They premises that human behaviour is determined by factors beyond individual’s will and that punishment should fit the criminal. The factors beyond the individual’s level can be analyzed by the authors into the social/contextual level risk variables which comprises of family factors, public disorder violence as well as socio- economic status.

Trinidad and Tobago’s society may reflect both the Classical and the Positivistic schools of thought, since recidivism can result from both individual and social/contextual level risk factors.

Statement of the Problem

Crime is a crucial problem with much cause for concern due to its soaring growth and seriousness. Criminologists, Sociologists, Anthropologists and Psychologists have begun to play an exceeding important role in determining the causal factors of this rising social problem. On of the causal factor for the increasing crime is ‘recidivism’. Much emphasis and attention is being placed by many researchers as to the reasons which may cause an individual to recidivate.

Recidivism is much a part of our society. Members of the public do not usually know the term, but they are aware that there are members of their community and by extension the country are regularly in and out of prison. Recidivists are classified as terrible persons and others avoid them, some people even disown members of their family or community who exhibits such behaviour. Recidivism is use as a ‘conceptual device to estimate the reconviction rate either in relation to particular penalties and correctional strategies such as fines, imprisonment, probation, parole and community service orders or in relation to specific types of offences such as murder, rape , robbery, larceny and the like.’[8] Ramdhanie (2002) approximated that 56% of the inmates (both prisoners and convicts) at the six adult prisons in Trinidad and Tobago can be deemed ‘recidivists’.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to examine the phenomenon of recidivism of a prison population, assessing the relationship between six risk factors and recidivism. The factors (both individual and social/contextual) that the authors rate high and most influential as being the causes of recidivism include; previous history dynamics, psychopathic disorder, educational performance and school discipline, family factors, community factors and peer influence. These level risk factors will be examine using a literature review and dangerous assessment instruments to prove the likelihood that a person will recidivate as a result and developing items to measure each risk factor.

Review of the Literature

Measurement of Recidivism

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1990) recidivism refers to the “tendency to relapse into a previous undesirable type of behaviour, especially crime.” Ramdhanie (2002) states that the measure of recidivism is not simple and straightforward since several competing interpretations can be made:

1) How many additional offenses should a convict commit to be considered a recidivist? Reoffending he argued involves prison recidivism, but also includes those who committed crime and were incarcerated or placed on a bond, paid a fine, or given community service.
2) Whether recidivism involves relapsing of a person with a previous conviction committing the same or different types of offenses.

Some other scenarios that must be consideration according to Ramdhanie for deciding what recidivism measures should be in use include:

1) Should recidivism consider re-arrest of persons with a prior conviction?
2) Should recidivism consider re-conviction of persons with a prior conviction?
3) Should recidivism consider re-commitment of persons to prison with a prior conviction?

The issue with measures of recidivism is that there is currently no fixed way of defining and measuring recidivism, as there is a variety of means utilized internationally.

Other recidivism studies typically use one or more of the three recidivism measures to measure reoffending. These include re-arrest, reconviction and recommitment to prison for a new offense. These measures are indicators of whether and what kind of new offense might have or has occurred. Each of these ways to measure recidivism has strengths and weaknesses. Arrests are the broadest measure of crime available, but an arrest does not imply that a new offense actually occurred. Convictions indicate that a new offense did occur, but may not indicate the seriousness of the offense. Commitments to prison, the narrowest measure, do indicate that a relatively serious new offense occurred.

According to Holley and Ensley (2003)[9] there exists four different means to measure recidivism which include; re-offense, re-imprisonment, re-arrest and technical violation.

1. Re-offense is measured as the date of the first felony offense after prison release. There is reason to doubt that re-arrest is a reliable indicator of reoffending by prison inmates.

2. Technical violation does not use recommitment to prison as a recidivism measure for several reasons. Technical violations result from the actions probation officers, judges, and take in response to inmates’ misbehaviour. When inmates on supervision after release commit a new

crime, they are often returned to prison for a technical violation before they are convicted of the new crime. This is called re-offense because it uses the new offense date, rather than the date of conviction. This way of measuring recidivism tells how soon after release the inmate commits a new crime.

3. Re-imprisonment is measured as the date of return to prison after re-offense, the first offense after prison release. Rates reported on this recidivism definition will necessarily be lower than re-offense rates, for the same follow-up period, since the re-imprisoned offenders are a subset of those who reoffend. Not all reconvicted inmates are sentenced to prison.

4. Re-arrest refers to a subsequent arrest after release from a custodial of supervision facility, often within a specified period of time. This measure ignores the fact that the arrestee may later be released for lack of sufficient evidence, maintaining that a mere act of arrest is indicative of recidivism. This measure is not used in this study because there is reason to doubt that re-arrest is a reliable indicator of reoffending by prison inmates.

For the purpose of this proposal the authors use two means of measuring recidivism which include:

1. Re-offense - conviction for a new type of offense or the identical serious offense that resulted in prior conviction. This way of measuring recidivism tells how soon after release the inmate commits a new or a previously committed crime.

2. Re-imprisonment- the commitment to prison for a new offense. This way of measuring recidivism tells how soon after release the inmate returns to prison for a new crime.


Previous history dynamics (which include age, offense type and prior offense)


The age at which a person begins committing crimes is said to be predictive of future offending and recidivism. In particular, age at first offense in juvenile is said to be one of the greatest predictors of serious future offending. (Piquero & Chung, 2001, Corapcioglu & Erdogan, 2004).[10] A younger age at first offense may be predictive of greater criminal activity simple because a person has a larger time frame to commit crimes and the more crimes are committed by an individual, the more serious they tend to become over time (Samson and Lauritson 1994).[11]

Researchers have found a relationship between age on release and sexual recidivism. Thornton (2002)[12] found that age on release made a significant contribution to the prediction of sexual recidivism. He found that sexual reconviction declined by 0.02 with each year of age. The recidivism rate for those aged between 18 and 24 was 80%, while the rate for those 25- 59 was 50% and the 60 plus range reported no reconviction for this particular study.


[1] Columbia Encyclopaedia. (2010 ). In Encyclopaedia Britannica . Retrieved October 12, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

[2] Henslin, James. (2008). “Social Problem: a Down-to -Earth Approach”.

[3] Pryce, Ken. (1982). “The Criminal and Recidivism: A Caribbean Perspective, adapted from ‘Youth and Crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Published by, Club L’ouverture.

[4] Ramdhanie, Ian. (2002) p. 126. “Prison Recidivism in Trinidad and Tobago: results from a baseline study”, Published by the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, UWI St Augustine Campus Trinidad and Tobago, WI.

[5] Cartney, Desmond. (No date) p 7. “Crime and the treatment of Offenders in Trinidad and Tobago”.

[6] Archibald, A (1987), Recidivism among prisoners in Trinidad and Tobago.

[7] Evan Sycamnias, (no date),

[8] [8] Pryce, Ken. (1982). “The Criminal and Recidivism: A Caribbean Perspective, adapted from ‘Youth and Crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Published by, Club L’ouverture.

[9] Holley, Glen and Ensley, David (2003), “Recidivism Report: Inmates released from Florida Prison July 1995 to June 2001”, Department of Corrections, and State of Florida.

[10] Cited Collins, Rachael Eve, (2005),”The Effect of Gender on Violent and non-violent Recidivism: A Meta Analysis”. Lake head University

[11] Ibid

[12] Thornton, David, (2006), “Age and Sexual Recidivism: A Variable Connection”. Sex Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. 2006

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The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine
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Stacy Ramdhan (Author)Lisa Bissessar (Author), 2010, Recidivism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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