Recidivism means committing crimes consistently and the person who persistently indulges in committing a crime is called a recidivist.

John W.Mannering about recidivism stated that the literature of criminology is full of description of the personality and the background of the recidivists to understand why they keep on committing crimes.  He observed that recidivists have certain peculiar characteristics like aggressive, ego-centric, anti-social, highly competitive, and indifferent to the well-being of others.

Thus, a habitual offender having a long criminal record and has been sentenced to prison now and then can be characterized as a recidivist.

The most common crimes committed by recidivists are robbery, extortion, theft, forgery, burglary, and cheating. A recidivist becomes a professional criminal having technical knowledge and sophisticated method for committing a crime. He is observant, patient, clever, greedy, opportunist, and vicious.

The most severe punishment and penalties given by the Courts to the recidivists are inadequate and ineffective thereby inviting recidivists to make the act of repeating crime their profession and build a career out of it.


For understanding recidivism, G.B. Vold classified criminals into 4 categories-

  • Psychologically disturbed criminals who commit crimes due to mental depravity or emotionally unstable state of mind. They need to be treated in the hospital to free them from the curse of recidivism. Vold stated that about 30 percent of the offenders belong to this category.
  • People who resort to crime because of being un=educated, un-skilled, and lack of ability. Such offenders are mentally stable but they are not able to sustain themselves in the complex modern society and suffer from a high level of inferiority complex. Such offenders should be taught skills and be made self-sufficient so that they can survive in this competitive world. They should be given proper training in prison so that when they go out of prison they can earn and support their families. According to Vold, almost 40 percent of the criminal belong to this category.
  • Psychologically stable people who are educated but their identification with the law violators makes them criminals belong to this category. For instance, people who engage themselves in communal activities for rival political parties. In this case, neither imprisonment nor reformation serves any purpose. According to Vold, 10 percent of criminals belong to this category.
  • Hardcore criminals who become professionals criminals and have made the act of committing crimes a regular way of life. Such criminals carry out crimes in a planned and organized manner and form criminal groups and associations. These criminal groups are active in brothels, gambling houses, illegal liquor shops. Rehabilitation of these criminals is very difficult.  According to Vold, 20 percent of criminals belong to this category.


  • Recidivism is more prominent in urban regions in comparison to rural areas. The high cost of living, congested dwellings, mechanized life, slums in cities helps the offenders to carry out their criminal activities in an undetected manner for a long time. This makes them habitual offenders finally transforming them into recidivists.
  • As a prisoner committing serious offences is punished for a long term of imprisonment he is kept in continued isolation for a long time. Further, the stigma of being imprisoned makes him shun away by society. Thus, he finds no interest in living a free life and reverts back to crime making him a recidivist.
  • The criminal tendency incites criminals to organize themselves into criminal groups and associations. These criminals show utmost loyalty, devotion, and faithfulness towards their groups, and if any of their fellow men tries to reform himself and other criminals of the group he is ridiculed aggressively.
  • Criminals who are mentally disturbed, emotionally unstable are persistent in committing crimes. Such personality traits are unchangeable. Such criminals are very difficult to reform and no correctional process is useful for them.
  • A various correctional process such as parole, probation has proved to be inadequate and ineffective in reforming habitual offenders and hardened criminals.
  • In today‚Äôs time’s poverty, unemployment, and economic depression are increasing rapidly making people resort to committing crimes repeatedly. At times, people prefer going to jail to get two meals and a place of shelter. Thus, the rate of recidivism is high among the poor and homeless people.
  • Disturbed family, frequent quarrels, domestic violence, illiteracy further add to the problem of recidivism. These factors encourage offenders to take up crime as their profession and easy way of earning.


Some of the common crimes committed by the recidivists are as follows-

White-collar crimes





Infringement of copyrights and trademarks





Black marketing


  • The reformative process of parole and probation should be effectively implemented thereby helping the recidivists to live a life free from crime. This, care treatment of the prisoners released should be properly carried out.
  • Criminal trials procedure are quite lengthy and need to be amended so that hardened criminals get conviction shortly. As we say that long delay in delivering justice and convicting the accused reduces the gravity of the offence.
  • First-time offenders should not be kept with hardcore criminals and should be given a chance to correct themselves. They should be treated differently. Proper classification of offenders into habitual, occasional, mentally disturbed, hardened should be done.
  • Speedy trials and punishment should be implemented to stop offenders from repeating crimes.
  • After releasing the prisoners should be rehabilitated by providing them employment through which they can earn for themselves and lead a respectable life.
  • Criminals suffering from mental illness should be given treatment by a psychiatrist so that they do not indulge in criminal activities again.
  • Illiterate criminals or less educated criminals should be given education thereby inculcating moral values in them.


From the above discussion, we can conclude that as India has a large number of poor, less educated people the rate of conversion of first-time offenders into hardcore recidivists is increasing. There are many well-known criminal groups formed by hardened offenders who are engaged in committing serious crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, etc. Recidivists have no fear of police authorities and also have support from powerful people thereby making efforts of correctional institutions useless.

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