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BJS Recidivism Study Shows Most Re-arrests Occur Within Three Years

A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study of state prisoner recidivism from 2005 to 2010 showed that “67.8% of the 404,638 state prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested within 3 years of release, and 76.6% were arrested within 5 years of release.”  Twenty-three states submitted data for the BJS study, which was consistent with a findings of a similar study carried out by the non-partisan Pew Institute.  

The three-year old Pew study by their states’ Public Safety Performance Project found that 45.4 percent of people released from prison in 1999 and 43.3 percent of those freed in 2004 were re-incarcerated within three years. The newest BJS study found that among prisoners who returned to prison, “49.7% had either a parole or probation violation or an arrest for a new offense within 3 years that led to imprisonment, and 55.1% had a parole or probation violation or an arrest that led to imprisonment within 5 years.”

This BJS study, which collected data over a five-year period from different states than the Pew study, noted that recidivism rates declined as more time after release elapsed: “While 20.5% of released prisoners not arrested within 2 years of release were arrested in the third year, the percentage fell to 13.3% among those who had not been arrested within 4 years.” The Pew study counted only ex-prisoners who returned to prison, while BJS included all ex-prisoners who were rearrested.

BJS noted that prisoner released after a sentence for a property crime were highly likely to recidivate, with 82 percent of the prisoners in that category reoffending.  The figure was 77 percent for drug offenders, 74 percent for public order offenders, and 71 percent of violent offenders.

Blacks had a higher re-arrest rate, than Hispanics, who were higher than white offenders, at 81 percent, 75 percent, and 73 percent, respectively.  Re-arrest rates dropped with age, with 84 percent of 24-years-of-age or younger offenders, compared to 69 percent for offenders older than 40.

Despite the fact that recivdivism rates appeared to hold steady, many criminal justice experts feel that they are on the decline.  According to BJC, “The improved reporting of arrests and prosecutions maintained by the FBI and state repositories in the decade between the two studies also resulted in more complete documentation of the official criminal records of prisoners released in 2005. The quality of rap sheets has improved since the mid-1990s due to efforts funded by individual states and by BJS’s National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), which awarded more than $500 million over this period to states for criminal history record improvements.”

In addition,” the study said,” while local law enforcement agencies historically limited their criminal history repository submissions to arrests for felonies and serious misdemeanors, the reporting of less serious misdemeanors or minor infractions expanded during this time, although it is unknown whether this increase is due to changes in reporting practices or changes in the criminal behaviors of the released prisoners.”

Thirty states contributed arrest data for the BJS study, including Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.


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