Long View of Ex-Prisoners Finds 83% Recidivism Rate

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Photo by Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Five out of six state prisoners were arrested at least once during the nine years after their release, according to a vast new federal study that takes a granular long view at American recidivism patterns.

The report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics is the first to use a nine-year window to view criminal backsliding by a large sample group of prisoners released in 2005. Prior studies used three- or five-year follow-up periods.

The authors of the 23-page report, 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014), say the longer view “shows a much fuller picture of offending patterns and criminal activity of released prisoners.” It was written by BJS statisticians Mariel Alper and Matthew Durose and former BJS statistician Joshua Markman.

Using data submitted by both law enforcement agencies and state departments of corrections, the researchers tracked the offending patterns of a random sample of 67,966 prisoners from among the 401,288 prisoners released in 2005 in a total of 30 states.

Among their key findings:

  • The 400,000 released prisoners racked up nearly two million arrests during the nine-year period, or about five arrests per man or woman.
  • Forty-four percent were arrested during their first year following release, 68 percent were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years, and 83 percent within nine years.
  • Seventy-seven percent of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within nine years.
  • Released property offenders were more likely to be arrested again than released violent offenders.
  • Eight percent of prisoners arrested during the first year after release were arrested outside the state that released them. That number increased each year—apparently an indication of increasing interstate mobility. By year nine, 14 percent of those arrested were collared in another state.

David Krajicek is a contributing editor of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcome.

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