Do correctional programs reduce crime? Crime statistics

 Crime in America.Net

A reader requested data as to correctional programs that reduce recidivism (new crimes, convictions and incarcerations committed by people already in the criminal justice system). Earlier in this site we documented reductions in recidivism for drug courts, cognitive behavioral therapy, Hawaii’s Project Hope and we cited reductions in crime due to incarceration (see links below).

This article continues the effort to provide data as to “what works” to reduce recidivism/crime. 

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) produces some of the best “evidence-based” crime-related data in the country. They do a meta-analysis (what we used to call literature reviews) involving the analysis of national and state program evaluations that are methodologically correct (the researchers used correct methods to come to their conclusions).

WSIPP created the best overview of programs focusing on adult and juvenile corrections. The effectiveness of the programs evaluated range from 0 to approximately 20 percent reductions. See See charts.

Not all program evaluations (in the WSIPP and other studies) document reductions in crime or are deemed successful but there is enough evidence from WSIPP and other sources (cited above-links below) indicating that reductions in recidivism/new crimes are possible.

The results are not spectacular, but with 730,000 offenders returning from prison each year, even a 10 percent reduction for those released (they are joining a total of 5 million probationers and parolees on supervision in the country) means enormous savings for deferred arrests and prosecution costs, prison construction and operating costs and a multitude of prevented crimes.

We are in our infancy as to a complete understanding as to precise methods of cutting recidivism. As stated earlier, some within the justice system estimate that we have approximately 30 percent of the knowledge we need to apply concepts with surgical accuracy.

It’s possible for well-meaning professionals to actually increase recidivism by the inappropriate application of techniques designed to assist offenders.

The interesting news is that WSIPP is joining with the Pew Center on the States to develop a methodology to discover and apply precision to the “art” of reducing recidivism.

For additional studies in the “what works” series in Crime in America.Net, see:






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