[The intro is still in its early stages, and will probably be completed last]
Public attitudes vary by region
What effect do these attitudes have on the administration of local facilities?
What effects does the style of administration have on local recidivism rates?
How do public attitudes towards crime affect recidivism rates?
For the sake of simplicity, this essay will focus on comparisons between the prison systems of Minnesota and Oregon, the states scoring highest and lowest respectively on recidivism rates in a 2011 survey by The Pew Center on the States. This will of course provide an incomplete analysis of the correlation between public attitudes and local recidivism rates, but as information on either subject is limited, a comparison between extremes should yield the most immediately useful results.
Minnesota has a 3-year recidivism rate of 61.2%, the highest of any US state (Citation). In spite of this, a public opinion survey conducted in 2002 found that 92% of Minnesota residents “always or almost always feel safe” (citation). This draws a stark contrast to Oregon, whose exceptionally low recidivism rate (22.8%) (Citation) coexists with a much lower percentage of people feeling safe from crime, only 68% (Citation). (It should be noted that this survey was conducted in 1988, and public attitudes may have shifted significantly in the years since) This seems to suggest an inverse correlation between public fear of crime and recidivism rates – that is, higher levels of public anxiety tend to correspond with lower proportions of prisoners being reincarcerated. To determine whether this correlation is causal or coincidental, we must examine the effects of public opinion on the administration of prisons, along with the effects of a prison’s style of administration on its recidivism rates.
[Next I plan to classify prisons into archetypes and assign each state’s most populous prison to its corresponding archetype, followed by a comparison of each archetypes effectiveness in different areas, eventually leading to a conclusion on how (or if) local attitudes towards criminals affect local recidivism rates]