Why do so many criminals repeat their offenses? In a landmark study conducted by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, the conclusion emerged that about three fourths of those entering jail have been there before. The younger the person at the time of the first offense, the higher the rate of return to jail and the sooner it occurs.
The figures vary from time to time. Why are the rates so high, even among those who come out of “model” institutions? Certainly, the issue of self worth has been proved to be a factor time and again. In addition, the observation that penalinstitutions unwittingly reinforce the deviant tendencies of inmates has been repeatedly made by criminologists. How can the cycle be broken?
Two scholars, Lloyd W. McCorkle, warden of the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, and Richard R. Korn, director of education and counseling at the same institution, take the position, that the total result of the interacting trends andprocesses going on in the present system has been to isolate the offender from socially beneficial contact with people outside the inmate social world and to prevent the formation of relationship bonds that might make those who are released acceptable members of the non-criminal community.
Dr. McCorkle and Mr. Korn seem not only to put their fingers on one of the major causes of recidivism (relapse) but present the case of the presence of volunteers in penal institutions – people with whom inmates can form such relationship bonds.
Not only is the presence of volunteers in penal institutions necessary but there is a need for a particular type of volunteers—one who by virtue of his or her presence in prisons can be a role model, counselor and a friend, a catalyst in the process of rebirth.