Reentry Programs, Reforms Helped Lower Recidivism Rates by Nearly Half: Report

The Crime Report: TCR Staff | September 2, 2021


An overall decline in recidivism rates may have been driven by federal and state reentry programs and changes in policing strategy, according to an analysis of 2005-2012 data by the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ).


The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) recently released recidivism report, found that recidivism rates dropped by nearly a half in that period from 30.4 percent in 2005 to 19.9 percent in 2012.


But the cumulative five-year rearrest rate of people exiting prison in 2012 was virtually unchanged for violent offenses. At the same time, rearrests for property offenses declined by three percentage points between 2005 and 2012, and rearrests for drug violations declined by six percentage points.


“Recidivism studies like the recent BJS report are crucial in tracking the impact of criminal justice reforms and reentry programs,” write Nancy La Vigne, Executive Director of the Council on Criminal Justice Task Force on Policing, and Ernesto Lopez, Research Specialist at the Council on Criminal Justice.


CCJ notes that the factors driving the reduction in return-to-prison rates are unclear. Changes in the behavior of people being released — like a pattern of committing fewer new crimes or violations of supervision — or changes in the behavior of the criminal justice system, from reform to police arrest practices or probation and parole, could be driving the decline.


But according to CCJ, federal and state investment programs have been substantial in recent years, and some private sector initiatives have prioritized the hiring of people with criminal records — efforts that may have reduced reoffending rates.


Changes in policing strategy and other justice reforms may also have been a factor in the decline.


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