Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

BJS Releases New Recidivism Study

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a division of the Department of Justice, has published a recidivism study of prisoners released in 1994, the first since its 1989 report on 1983 releasees.

The report studied the recidivism rate of 272,111 prisoners released from 15 states in 1994. These former prisoners represented two-thirds of all prisoners released in 1994. Four measures of recidivism were used: rearrest, reconviction, resentence to prison, and return to prison with or without a new sentence. Released prisoners were tracked for three years, and both "In-State" and "Out-of-State" recidivism were measured. In-State recidivism occurs when a rearrest, reconviction, resentence to prison, or return to prison occurred in the same state that released the prisoner. Out-of-State recidivism occurs when a prisoner recidivates in a different state.

The researchers found that within three years of release in 1994: 67.5% of releasees were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor; 46.9% were convicted of a new crime; 25.4% were sentenced to prison for a new crime; and 51.8% were returned to prison with or without a new sentence. The 51.8% returned to prison were divided into 25.4% sentence to prison for a new crime and 26.4% returned to prison for technical violations of post-release supervision, probation, or parole.

Released prisoners with the highest recidivism rates were property criminals. In order from the highest rate, recidivism was greatest among persons convicted of robbery, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, possession or sale of stolen property, and possession, use, or sale of illegal weapons. All these exceeded 70%. The lowest rates were found among persons convicted of homicide (40.7%), rape (46.0%), other sexual assault (41.4%), and driving under the influence (51.5%). Contrary to stereotypes, murderers and rapists were not likely to be rearrested for a new murder or rape within the 3-year study period. Of released homicide offenders, only 1.2% were arrested for a new homicide. Of released rapists, only 2.5% were arrested for a new rape.

Recidivism rates varied by gender, race, ethnicity, and age. Men were more likely to be rearrested than women. Blacks recidivated more frequently than whites; non-Hispanics more frequently than Hispanics; and younger prisoners more frequently than older prisoners. Further, the longer the prior criminal record, the more likely the releasee was to recidivate.

The length of incarceration influenced recidivism. No evidence showed that recidivism rates rose with longer prison time. Some evidence showed that longer prison terms correlated to reduced recidivism. The report calls the latter findings "mixed." During the 3-year study period, that two-thirds of all recidivism occurred in the first year of release from prison. Nearly 88% of recidivism occurred in the first two years following release.

The report is titled "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994," by Patrick A. Langan and David J. Levin. It is report number NCJ193427, published June 2002 by BJS. One copy of the report is free by writing U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, DC 20531. The report can also be obtained in ASCII and portable document formats from the BJS website:

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login