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Event- and Offender-Based Recidivism Methodology Using the National Corrections Reporting Program

W. Rhodes, G. Gaes, C. Cutler, R. King, J. Luallen, T. Rich, M. Shively, J. Markman


February 27, 2019

A study by Abt Global found that the recidivism rate (rate that offenders return to prison) is about 33 percent, far lower than the roughly 50 percent rate in previous estimates. The Abt paper, funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) under Grant No. 2010-BJ-CX-K067, analyzed prison data in a novel way and enabled expansion of data gathering from 30 states to all 50 states. Previously analysts tallied offenders released each year and checked if they returned to prison later. They counted each year separately. That overrepresented repeat offenders who would show up in more than one year. Abt instead looked at the entire period 2000-2012 and counted individual offenders who returned to prison instead of releases. That lowered the recidivism rate substantially —and suggests that corrections interventions may be more effective than previously thought.