What works for juveniles may be ineffective for adults. Analysing the various methods can help answer the question; Why do criminals stop offending
To evaluate the programs used to intervene in a criminal's behaviour, it's useful to break down the population into the distinct groups of juvenile and adult offenders. Crimes by juveniles often involve petty property crimes. Retail theft is one of the more prevalent transgressions and the Retail Theft Initiative (RTI) has had success with early intervention in the lives of underage criminals. According to the Thames Valley Police, "Research has shown that peer pressure is one of the primary factors behind young peoples' offending" (What do RTIs involve n.d.). The RTI program makes the offender aware of the problems they will face upon their release. An intervention program offered by the Metropolitan Police Authority takes a similar approach. First time juvenile offenders are given a 3 to 12 month referral program in exchange for a plea of guilty. Upon completion of the program the charge is removed from their record. By dealing with the social aspects and the environment of the youthful offender, the program has found that 80% of the successful participants do not re-offend within 2 years (My story 2005). For first time juvenile offenders, early intervention in a social context is vital.
As people become adults the concept of intervention may not be enough to reduce re-offending. Positive life events can work to naturally reduce the rate of re-offending. Strong marital bonds and strong ties to employment can both benefit men (Laub & Sampson 2003 p.46). As offenders get older, the rate of crime also naturally drops. According to Laub and Sampson (2003) as people get older they re-offend less. They state, "Desistance from crime is thus the norm, and most, if not all, serious delinquents desist from crime (p.91). For the adult group that does not marry, gain employment, or desist due to age the effects of incarceration and prison programs should be evaluated.
One of the most apparent commonalties among adult offenders is their lack of education. In the US, the rates of illiteracy among the prison population are as much as 5 times the general population. According to Karpowitz and Kenner, as many as 60% of the inmates in US prisons are functionally illiterate (p. 4). In a 1997 study by the US Department of Education, they concluded that, "simply attending school behind bars reduces the likelihood of reincarceration by 29% (cited in Karpowitz & Kenner p. 4). The US Federal Bureau of Prisons found that this effect is independent of post prison employment and state that, "this is attributable to the "normalizing" effects of education itself" (cited in Karpowitz & Kenner p. 6). It is clear that education is a major factor in the desistance of re-offending.
It is a common belief that the threat of prison or that punishment is a major factor in the desistence of crime. This may have some basis in fact. Cusson and Pinsonneault (1986) suggest that punishment gradually wears down the criminal drive. They report that this is due to their increased fear of future punishment, difficulty in coping with imprisonment as they get older, and their awareness of the impact of their previous crimes on future punishment (cited in Song & Lieb 1993 p. 3). It is shown that the threat of prison does act as a deterrent as the criminal ages. But does probation or the length of sentence have an effect on the rate of desistence