It’s a commonly heard story – A young man commits some sort of crime, gets caught and goes up before a judge. The judge them gives him a choice – either enroll in the armed forces, or go to jail. The boy says he will join the armed forces, and out the door he goes straight to the recruiter’s office. He enlists, serves his country, rehabilitates himself and becomes a productive member of society.Looking back to WWI and WWII, where every able-bodied American was needed to fight, this was a somewhat common practice. When in the midst of a world war, the military was a lot less choosy. But since the 1970s, most branches of the armed forces specifically say they don’t want anyone to join that hasn’t already been tried, sentenced, and served their time. Even after that, it’s unusual for them to take a convicted criminal.However, past trials show that military service does have great benefits that traditional incarceration does not. From 1940 to 1947, the State of Illinois paroled 2942 men into the Army. Of those men, only 3.4% violated their parole while enrolled. Additionally, their 8-year re-incarceration rate was only 10.5% – those inmates who served traditional sentences had a recidivism rate of more than 4 times higher. http://www.cjcj.org/uploads/cjcj/documents/alternatives_to.pdfA large part of what makes the military a better option than traditional prisons is its ability to create an environment of what sociologists call “secondary socialization.” By creating a program that doesn’t care who or what you were before enlisted, many potential inmates are able to shed their backgrounds and become responsible members of the military and community. The sense of community in the military is conducive to positive personal change. Sociologists have proven that the greater an individual is linked to their community, the greater the chance an individual can turn their life around. Often, this is the first time individuals have been in a supportive environment with good role models – certainly an environment vastly different from U.S. prisons.Recently, the military has been having a hard time getting new recruits, and a moral waiver program has been implemented. These waivers are for convicted individuals to join the armed forces after they have served their sentence, are considered rehabilitated, and otherwise are considered a candidate to serve. If an individual seeks a waiver for a criminal indiscretion, the rest of their enlistment application must be spotless. There are some criminal offences, like sex crimes, physical violence and domestic violence that understandably immediately disqualify a convict from military enlistment. https://www.navycs.com/blogs/2010/05/23/moral-waivers-for-enlistmentThe waiver system is subjective and on a case-by-case basis, and does take a long time to process. The worse the convicted offense, the longer the process takes. As different branches of the armed forces have different rules concerning waivers, it is possible to be rejected by one but accepted by another.The type of environment presented by the armed forces has proved to benefit convicts that are open to rehabilitation and abandoning their criminal ways. By making the waiver program more publicized and an available option for rehabilitation after prison will decrease the recidivism rate not through burdening our overpopulated prison systems, but by working to fully rehabilitate former criminals.