(FinalCall.com) – Wedded bliss does a lot of great things for men. They have better health, live longer, make more money and their children tend to be more successful. Marriage may also be an antidote to a life of crime, according to a University of Florida (UF) study.
In the study of Black, White and Hispanic paroled men, the UF research team found that the most hardened ex-cons were far less likely to return to a life of crime if they settled down into the routines of a solid marriage.
“People who are married often have schedules where they work 9-to-5 jobs, come home for dinner, take care of children if they have them, watch television, go to bed and repeat that cycle over and over again,” said Alex Piquero, the UF professor of criminology and law who led the study. “People who are not married have a lot of free reign to do a lot of what they want, especially if they are not employed.”
There are conditions, though. Common-law marriages, or just living with a woman, did not have the same crime-reducing effect as did traditional marriages. In fact, the study found that couples just living together actually increased the likelihood that parolees would recommit crimes, at least among parolees who are not Caucasian.
“Non-whites, especially African Americans, have lower rates of marriages than Whites, and it could be, especially among male criminal offenders, that the idea of marriage is a foreign concept to them, perhaps because they may have come from single-parent families or are surrounded by single-parent households,” Mr. Piquero said.
Statistics indicate many non-White parolees are not steadily employed, so women may not look upon them as desirable marriage partners anyway, according to the study. Rather than entering relationships with partners who might obstruct their involvement in crime, ex-cons end up sticking with women who allow them to continue their errant ways, he said.
“There’s something about crossing the line of getting married that helps these men stay away from crime,” he said. “If they don’t cross that line, they can continue their lifestyles, which are pretty erratic.”
Adeyemi Bandele conducts Men on the Move, Washington, D.C.-based program that works with men that have been incarcerated. “Love can make you do wrong and make you do right. The importance of structure in a man’s life is critical. Marriage adds that structure to a man’s life,” he said. “There is a greater appreciation of marriage after incarceration because the man realizes what he missed while he was incarcerated.”
Using arrest records from the state of California, Mr. Piquero, Karen Parker, also a UF criminology and law professor, and John MacDonald, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor, tracked each of 524 men in their late teens and early 20s for a seven-year period after they were paroled from the California Youth Authority during the 1970s and 1980s.
The sample of men, who had been incarcerated for lengthy periods of time, was 48.5 percent white, 33 percent Black, 16.6 percent Hispanic and 1.9 percent other races. The study, funded by the Nation Institute of Justice, sought to identify factors leading to continued involvement in crime, as well as those relating to crime reduction. It examined alcohol and drug use, marriage and employment
The only other factor to influence recidivism was heroin dependency, Mr. Piquero, noted. Parolees who abused heroin became involved in a wide range of violent and non-violent crimes.
Mr. Piquero said he was surprised by the results. As the state’s last stop for criminal offenders, the California Youth Authority draws the worst criminal offenders. “These aren’t one-time offenders who are selling a few joints out on the streets,” he said. “I honestly didn’t expect to find the ‘marriage effect’ among these people becaues they had made lots of bad choices in thier lives prior to this point and had long, long rap sheets,” he said.
The findings underscore the importance of life circumstances over time, Mr. Piquero explained. “It shows that life events such as marriage matter and can trigger changes from one pathway to another, causing a move in a different direction,” he said.
-Nisa Islam Muhammad