The Recidivism Crisis

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, recidivism is defined as “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior.”


Depending on jurisdiction, recidivism can be measured as any new arrest, a specific type of rearrest, reincarceration or reconviction within a certain time period. IOW is less concerned with how to define recidivism and more with how to help young people who are repeatedly caught up in the vicious cycle that is the criminal justice system. For these youth and young adults, the road to prison is often more clear and well paved than the path to college.


Instead of a national outpouring of financial and human capital to address the epidemic of juvenile incarceration and recidivism, high-need youth – those with mental health problems, learning disabilities and those who are institutionalized in the foster care system – are being pushed into the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, statistics show that 50-80% of formerly incarcerated juveniles will have repeat contact with the juvenile or adult criminal justice systems within a few years of release and less than 20% will earn a high school diploma.


Once a young person has been released from detention, he or she faces significant barriers to a successful transition and re-entry. Many lack the mental capacity to support their educational and economic goals. The vast majority of formerly incarcerated young people also often lack a network of dependable peers and family members to participate in and support their transition efforts. Through our Writing and Alumni Programs, IOW aims to provide a positive support network that is also a family.