Abstract

The California Lifer Paradox

California has about 565,000 residents incarcerated in local jails, state/federal prisons, juvenile detentions, or under involuntary supervision. The latter comprises 90,000 formerly incarcerated persons on parole and another 236,000 on probation. Incarcerated persons experience significant challenges of managing and coping with long-term incarceration. Some survive prison by adopting risky behavior, while others find a middle ground by developing positive behavior through education and self-help programs. Because of these variant social-psychological pathways of incarcerated citizens, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms of recidivism before release and while on parole. In this mixed methods study, we investigate the mechanisms that drive low recidivism rates among paroled lifers. We aim to answer the following: 1)Why do paroled lifers recidivate in significantly lower rates than other returning citizens?, 2) Is the aging-out phenomena solely responsible for the lower recidivism rate?, 3) To what extent do resiliency, education, and self-development programs contribute to the lower recidivism rates?

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