Why Do Felons Become Repeat Offenders?

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Why do felons, once they are released from prison, continue to commit crimes, knowing the potential consequences for doing so?

As humans we are all prone to repeat our past behavior.  Typically we do so when there is something for us to gain, or we wouldn’t do it.

But why run the risk of being incarcerated again?  Yet statistics show that as many as 69% of those released from prison will return there within three years of their release.

It wouldn’t seem to make sense, but there are many reasons for them to offend again and for two thirds to be re-incarcerated.

In this blog post, we will focus on a few of these factors.

  • Frustration with not being able to find a job
  • Impulsive, self-defeating behavior
  • Exposure to more crime
  • How to help ex-offenders turn away from crime

Frustration With Not Being Able to Find a Job

Once released from prison, one of the biggest hurdles felons face is finding a job.  They are expected to do so as part of their probation and re-entry into society.

As felons, they have probably not had a stable job history.  This is in itself one reason felons turn to crime in the first place.  They may not have strong job skills due to a lack of education or no vocational training.

They may lack the interview skills to be hired for a position.  Also, there may be a lack of  motivation to find and keep jobs.  Imagine returning from incarceration and struggling to find a job for any of these reasons.

As if that is not enough, it can be difficult to find an employer who is willing to hire an ex-offender.  Many companies will not (though we have a list of companies that do).  It doesn’t take many rejections from potential employers to discourage felons to the point that they give up on a job search.

But there is the constant pressure to make a living and provide for their family.  If nothing else works out they may turn again to crime to make money.

Impulsive, Self-defeating Behavior

It is not uncommon for felons to have a long history of impulsive, self-defeating behavior long before committing a crime.

Often when growing up those who later turn to crime get into trouble at home and in school.  They tend to have a lot of acting out, behavior problems that constantly brings them to the attention of parents, teachers, principals, and later legal authorities.

Among the factors here is that felons often have weak social attachments and move from one shallow involvement with people to another.  Their impulsivity keeps them from finding satisfaction with traditional relationships, leading to feelings of rejection, which is interpreted as there being something wrong with them.

The impulsive acting out becomes more exaggerated and inappropriate and eventually illegal.  After that, it isn’t long before they land in jail or prison.

Once released, they are still impulsive people who don’t quite fit in.  Prison time does little to change this, and often times can actually make the behaviors worse.

More Exposure to Crime

It is true that those who engage in crime are more likely to have grown up in neighborhoods that have a high crime rate along with poverty.

Those are exactly the types of areas where future felons are exposed to crime.  They see their buddies and even close family members commit crimes and constantly remain on the edge of the law.  Especially when family members themselves are felons, the chances of becoming a felon greatly increases.

Once felons are released from prison, where do they go?  Typically they return to the exact same neighborhood and family they came from.

They are once again exposed to a life of crime as those close to them may still be involved in a criminal lifestyle.  The continue to lie, cheat, and steal because that is the neighborhood they are from and that is the norm for them.  It isn’t that they WANT to be these types of people, it’s that they are influenced by their surrounding community.

So they are more prone to commit future crimes because of those influences and a lack of opportunity to get away from that pressure.  This sets them up to once again commit more crimes, placing them at high risk for returning to prison.

How to Help Ex-offenders Turn Away From Crime

Leading an honest life requires major changes in their lives.  Staying away from crime and living a productive, honest life free from crime is not easy.

As supporters and significant others, it is important to be there to encourage them. They probably never had a stable job or personal history.

They will need assistance from those who care about them to learn new job and coping skills.   Reaching out for help from organizations in place to help those leaving prison will be an essential step in their recovery.  One of the best places to start is by downloading our FREE guide that helps felons get employed again.  Simply print the guide off and gift it to them, or just email it to them to take a look at.  If you can help a felon get a job, it’ll keep them busy and out of trouble.

Extend that helping hand to begin making a difference as ex-offenders create a new identity as productive members of society.

So what do you think about this blog post about why felons become repeat offenders?  Do you know of other reasons?   Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

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