The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics is improving its research capabilities on offenders’ recidivism nationwide so that the problem can be measured more accurately and more quickly, BJS official Howard Snyder told the National Committee on Community Corrections yesterday in Washington, D.C. A frequently quoted BJS report concluded that about two-thirds of released state prisoners were rearrested for serious new crimes within three years. That report is based in 1994 prison releases in 15 states and was not issued until 2002 because of difficulties in collecting and analyzing the data. Snyder said that in the future, BJS will be able to measure recidivism based on data from 32 states. It is not clear yet exactly when the new data will be publicly available.
The committee also heard from Marc Mauer of the Washingon, D.C.-based Sentencing Project on a survey of more than 99 studies from various states on recidivism. Mauer described the results as “all over the map,” in part because studies used differing definitions of recidivism. Some, for example, measure it in terms of re-arrests, while others focus on convictions or re-imprisonment. Some studies report reductions of 5 percent or 10 percent in recidivism after improved rehabilitation, results Mauer termed “not trivial.” Recidivism reduction gains should not be exaggerated, “or we risk setting ourselves up to fail,’ he said. The Sentencing Project survey can be found at this site: http://sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_StateRecidivismFinalPaginated.pdf