Grim News on Recidivism
Five out of six state prisoners were arrested at least once during the nine years after their release, the Bureau of Justice Statistics announced today. This is the first BJS study that uses a 9-year follow-up period to examine the recidivism patterns of released prisoners. The longer follow-up period shows a much fuller picture of offending patterns and criminal activity of released prisoners than is shown by prior studies that used a 3- or 5-year follow-up period.
This 2018 update on prisoner recidivism tracks a representative sample of prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states and chronicles their arrests through 2014. In 2005, those 30 states accounted for 77 percent of all persons released from state prisons nationwide.
Overall, 68 percent of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79 percent within six years and 83 percent within nine years. The 401,288 released state prisoners were arrested an estimated 2 million times during the nine years after their release, an average of five arrests per released prisoner.
On an annual basis, 44 percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release, 34 percent were arrested during the third year and 24 percent were arrested during the ninth year. Five percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release and were not arrested again during the 9-year follow-up period.
Released property and drug offenders were more likely to be arrested than released violent offenders; however, released violent offenders were more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within nine years, and more than a third (34 percent) were arrested for a violent crime.
Among prisoners arrested after release, the percentage of those arrested in another state increased each year after release. Eight percent of prisoners arrested during the first year following release were arrested outside of the state from which they were released. In comparison, 14 percent of prisoners arrested during the ninth year following release were arrested in another state.
To conduct this large-scale recidivism study, BJS used prisoner records obtained from state departments of corrections through BJS’s National Corrections Reporting Program and criminal history records obtained through requests to the FBI's Interstate Identification Index and state repositories via the International Justice and Public Safety Network.
The report, 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014) (NCJ 250975), was written by BJS statisticians Mariel Alper and Matthew Durose and former BJS statistician Joshua Markman. The report, related documents and additional information about BJS’s statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website at www.bjs.gov.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and disseminating reliable statistics on crime and justice systems in the United States. Jeffrey H. Anderson is director.