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Sentencing and Corrections - Recidivism

percent release prison rearrested

The recidivism rate measures the degree to which inmates return to criminal behavior after their release from prison. In "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994" (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, June 2002), authors Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D., and David J. Levin, Ph.D., released the findings of a study that tracked

TABLE 6.16
Educational programs offered in state, federal, and private prisons, 2000 and 1995, and in local jails, 1999

State prisons Federal prisons Private prisons Local jails
Educational programs 2000 1995 2000 1995 2000 1995 1999
With an education program 91.2% 88.0% 100.0% 100.0% 87.6% 71.8% 60.3%
Basic adult education 80.4 76.0 97.4 92.0 61.6 40.0 24.7
Secondary education 83.6 80.3 98.7 100.0 70.7 51.8 54.8
College courses 26.7 31.4 80.5 68.8 27.3 18.2 3.4
Special education 39.6 33.4 59.7 34.8 21.9 27.3 10.8
Vocational training 55.7 54.5 93.5 73.2 44.2 25.5 6.5
Study release programs 7.7 9.3 6.5 5.4 28.9 32.7 9.3
Without an education program 8.8 12.0 0.0 0.0 12.4 28.2 39.7
Number of facilities 1,307 1,278 * * 242 110 2,819
Note: Detail may not add to total because facilities may have more than one educational program.
*Changed definitions prevent meaningful comparisons of the numbers of federal facilities, 1995 and 2000.
SOURCE: Caroline Wolf Harlow, "Table 3: Educational Programs Offered in State, Federal, and Private Prisons, 2000 and 1995, and Local Jails, 1999," in "Education and Correctional Populations," Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, January, 2003

272,111 former inmates three years after their release from prison in 15 states—Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. Of prisoners tracked, over two-thirds (67.5 percent) were rearrested for a new offense during the three years after their release from prison. Of the 272,111 prisoners released in 1994, 46.9 percent were convicted of a new crime, and 25.4 percent were sentenced to prison for the new offense. Almost 52 percent of the 272,111 were back in prison, whether for a new crime or a technical violation of their release.

By offense, the highest rate of rearrest was for motor vehicle theft (78.8 percent), followed by selling stolen property (77.4 percent), larceny (74.6 percent), burglary (74 percent), and robbery (70.2 percent). The sale, use or possession of illegal weapons also accounted for an arrest rate of 70.2 percent. The lowest rates of rearrest in the three years following release from prison in 1994 were for homicide (40.7 percent), sexual assault other than rape (41.4 percent), rape (46 percent), and driving under the influence (51.5 percent).

Male prisoners released in 1994 were more likely to be rearrested (68.4 percent) than females (57.6 percent). African-Americans were more likely to be rearrested (72.9 percent) than were Hispanics (64.6 percent) and whites (62.7 percent). Inmates ages 25 to 29 (22.8 percent) and 30 to 34 (22.7 percent) were most likely to be rearrested, while inmates 45 years of age or older (7.5 percent) were least likely to re-offend in the three years after release from state prison. Of the 211,111 former inmates released in 1994, 7.6 percent were rearrested in a state other than the one that released them.

Arrest history made a difference in recidivism; the more arrests the prisoner had prior to release, the more likely the prisoner's rearrest. Of those with one arrest prior to their release, 41 percent were rearrested. About 47 percent of those with two prior arrests, 55 percent of those with three earlier arrests, and 82 percent of those with more than fifteen prior arrests (18 percent of all released prisoners) were rearrested within a three-year period.

Of 2002 parolees 45 percent successfully met the terms of their supervision, while 41 percent returned to prison either because of a parole violation or a new criminal offense. For those on probation in 2002, 14 percent returned to prison, a decrease from 21 percent in 1995.

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