Pitts column misses root causes of high urban crime rates

November 25, 2011

Regarding Leonard Pitts' column about crime in a public housing project, I offer my own reasons why state government needs to focus on improving education and job training in devastated urban areas like Liberty Square ("What if this was your neighborhood?" Nov. 20).

As a student of sociology at Elon University, I have studied the impact of education on incarceration rates. Sixty-seven percent of prisoners have not earned a high school diploma. Since education has been shown to significantly reduce the probability of incarceration, even slight improvements in educational achievement would produce a drop in crime and incarceration rates.

Moreover, recidivism rates are alarmingly high: Some 52 percent of people released from prison are re-arrested and re-sentenced to prison within three years. This figure does not include arrests that do not result in incarceration.

The recidivism rate is so high because, among many other factors, criminals are incapable of applying the skills they learn in prison in the work world. If better job training were available, criminals might be more likely to establish careers on their release that could motivate them to keep from being re-incarcerated.

If greater emphasis were placed on improving education and offering job training in Liberty Square, crime rates would fall dramatically. Rather than focus on stricter security, the city should address the more prevalent and serious issues that are the root cause the city's high crime rates.

Leah Cronshaw

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