Return to Prison (Recidivism) Rates for the UK-America-California

Gentlereaders: We recently posted rates of recidivism for the state of California and attached them to an existing page displaying national recidivism for the United States.  As a result of this article, a gracious reader sent this article (below)  regarding recidivism in the United Kingdom.

Recidivism is measured differently by jurisdictions and usually refers to people on parole (released from prison) and probation supervision who are rearrested or convicted or sent back to prison. Periods of measurement will differ as well.

We find it interesting that for many western industrialized countries, measures of crime and related statistics seem to have considerable similarities. While there are differences in raw numbers, trend lines seem to be similar.

We will present all three sources on this post and we will let you come to your own conclusions as to recidivism. We are interested in your opinions.

Can these Results be Changed?

Yes. Interventions providing programs for offenders both in and out of prison can lower recidivism from 10 to 20 percent. See:

Crime in America.Net  

Recidivism in the United Kingdom–News from The Telegraph, UK

New figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 74 per cent of those convicted of a criminal offence go on to commit a further crime within a decade at the very most. More than half reoffend again within a year.

The figures include both offenders who have served time in jail and those dealt with by community punishments.

They demonstrate the challenge facing Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, to meet his promise to bring about a “rehabilitation revolution”.

Mr. Clarke wants to send fewer offenders to prison and make more use of community penalties.

But the Ministry of Justice figures show that community orders are only slightly more effective than short term prison sentences and that, over time, most offenders returned to crime regardless of what punishment they are given.

The research, the most detailed yet on reoffending, also disclosed that at 14 prisons, seven in ten inmates reoffend within a year of release.

Reoffending statistics are normally only based on the first year after punishment but a long range study by the Ministry of Justice found that 74 per cent of offenders who were released from custody or who started a community penalty between January and March 2000 were reconvicted within nine years.

It means the majority of offenders are never rehabilitated.

California Recidivism

The report below comes from KALW news, a public radio station serving the San Francisco and Oakland areas. It’s really great to see a radio station retake the mantle of news reporting.

The summary is extracted from their report. See .

National prisoner recidivism data is offered below.

KALW report:

San Francisco has one of the highest recidivism rates in the state—some 78.3 percent go back to prison within three years of release—according to a report released today by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

The study tracked about 108,000 inmates released from state prisons between 2005 and 2006 over the course of three years. Overall, the state recidivism rate, which has long been among the highest in the country, clocks in at 67.5 percent.

The study notes that San Francisco, like other high-recidivism counties, “received more re-released inmates than those who were first released.”

Re-released offenders are 10 percent more likely to return to lockup.

By far, men between the ages of 18 and 19 are the most likely to reoffend, and mostly for stealing cars and “absconding,” which is corrections-speak for failing to regularly report in to a parole officer. Parole violations are the reason the majority of parolees return to prison (47 percent). Recidivists also went back to prison for property crimes (8 percent), drug crimes (6 percent) and 3 percent went back for “crimes against persons.”

Key findings:

  • Most inmates who commit new crimes or violate their parole do so in the first six months. An additional 25 percent return to prison within the first year.
  • Recidivism in California mostly declined with age, with 74.3 percent of 18- to 19-year- olds returning to prison within three years. In contrast, parolees 60 or over return to prison 46.3 percent of the time.
  • Top reasons offenders return to prison include vehicle theft (77 percent), escaping/absconding (75.9 percent) and receiving stolen property (75.3 percent).
  • Recidivism rates increase with each additional stay at a CDCR institution. First-time offenders have a 51.1 percent likelihood of returning to prison; those who have been in prison 15 or more times have a 86.3 percent chance of going back.
  • Women return to prison at much lower rates than men (58 percent for women, compared to 68.6 percent for men).
  • Recidivism rates for first-time offenders are highest for Native Americans, African Americans and white inmates.
  • Sex offenders make up 6.5 percent of parolees, and have a lower recidivism rate than other offenders. Five percent of released sex offenders who recidivate are convicted of a sex offense, 8.6 percent commit an unrelated crime and 86 percent return to prison on a parole violation.

Guest blogger Bernice Yeung is a San Francisco-based journalist who writes frequently about social and cultural issues, with a focus on legal affairs and the criminal justice system.

Recidivism in America

52 Percent of Released Prisoners Return to Prison-67 Percent Rearrested

Crime in America.Net

We have a reader request; she asks about recidivism of people released from prison (arrests, convictions, returns to prison).

The difficulty of this request is that there is nothing of a national and substantive nature except for a US Department of Justice study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that was released in June of 2002 based on inmates released from prison in 1994.

Note that there are a variety of older studies from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that remains definitive for many years. This study involved a very large set of data from 15 states and the methodology (quality of the research) was very good. This is the most quoted recidivism study in the country.

It followed offenders for three years and tracked results.

Principle Findings:

The study (see summary below) found that:

Two-thirds (sixty-seven) of offenders were arrested for “serious” crimes.

Fifty-two percent of the offenders were returned to prison for “serious” crimes and technical violations (they didn’t follow the rules of their release after prison).

Current Studies:

There are a wide variety of state and local studies that also examined recidivism but none with the same large data set (numbers of people followed) and none with the same rigorous methodology. We will address these studies in a future post.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics is redoing the study discussed here and will have results in 2011.

Main Characteristics of Recidivism:

 The study found two primary variables in recidivism which seem to be present in virtually all past and current studies:

Younger prisoners and those with longer records were more likely to be rearrested.

Post-prison recidivism was strongly related to arrest history.

Can these Results be Changed?

Yes. Interventions providing programs for offenders both in and out of prison can lower recidivism from 10 to 20 percent. See:

Previous Study:

A previous study titled “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983” was released in April of 1989.  It was an analysis of the criminal records of more than 16,000 men and women, representing the almost 109,000 offenders who were released from prisons in 11 States during 1983.

The study links correctional data with federal and state criminal history records to provide a complete portrait of criminal careers for more than a half of the State prisoners released.

About 47% of the former prisoners were convicted of a new crime and 41 percent were sent back to prison or jail.


2002 Study:


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Sixty-seven percent of former inmates released from state prisons in 1994 committed at least one serious new crime within the following three years.

This was a rearrest rate 5 percent higher than that among prisoners released during 1983.

State prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were those who had been incarcerated for stealing motor vehicles (79 percent), possessing or selling stolen property (77 percent), larceny (75 percent), burglary (74 percent), robbery (70 percent) or those using, possessing or trafficking in illegal weapons (70 percent).

Those with the lowest rearrest rates were former inmates who had been in prison for homicide (41 percent), sexual assault (41 percent), rape (46 percent) or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (51 percent).

About 1 percent of the released prisoners who had served time for murder were arrested for another homicide within three years, and about 2 percent of the rapists were arrested for another rape within that period.

Within three years, 52 percent of the 272,111 released prisoners were back in prison either because of a new crime or because they had violated their parole conditions (e.g., failed a drug test, missed a parole office appointment).

Men were more likely to be rearrested than were women (68 percent, compared to 58 percent), blacks more likely than whites (73 percent vs. 63 percent) and non-Hispanics more than Hispanics (71 percent vs. 65 percent).

Younger prisoners and those with longer records were also more likely to be rearrested.

Post-prison recidivism was strongly related to arrest history.

Among prisoners with one arrest prior to their release, 41 percent were rearrested. Of those with two prior arrests, 47 percent were rearrested. Of those with three earlier arrests, 55 percent were rearrested. Among those with more than 15 prior arrests, that is about 18 percent of all released prisoners, 82 percent were rearrested within the three-year period.

The 272,111 inmates had accumulated more than 4.1 million arrest charges prior to their current imprisonment and acquired an additional 744,000 arrest charges in the 3 years following their discharge in 1994 – an average of about 18 criminal arrest charges per offender during their criminal careers.

These charges included almost 21,000 homicides, 200,000 robberies, 50,000 rapes and sexual assaults and almost 300,000 assaults.

Almost 8 percent of all released prisoners were rearrested for a new crime in a state other than the one that released them. These alleged offenders were charged with committing 55,760 new crimes in states other than the imprisoning state within the three-year period. New York, Arizona and California had the most arrests of out-of-state offenders in this study.

The data were from the largest recidivism study ever conducted in the United States, which tracked prisoners discharged in 15 states representing two-thirds of all state prisoners released in 1994.

They were 91 percent male, 50 percent white, 48 percent black, 24 percent Hispanic (of any race) and 44 percent were younger than 30 years old.

Most of them had been in prison for felonies: 22 percent for a violent offense (such as murder, rape, sexual assault or robbery), 33 percent for a serious property offense (mostly burglary, motor vehicle theft or fraud), 33 percent for a drug offense (primarily drug trafficking or possession) and 10 percent for public order offenses (mainly drunk driving or weapons crimes).

Most former convicts were rearrested shortly after getting out of prison: 30 percent within six months, 44 percent within a year, 59 percent within two years and 67 percent by the end of three years.

The study findings are based upon the prison and criminal records of an estimated 272,111 discharged prisoners in 15 states who were tracked through fingerprints records made at various points of contact with the justice system, both within the state in which they had served time and other states to which they traveled.

The BJS special report, “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994″  was written by BJS statisticians Patrick A. Langan and David J. Levin.




  1. Boruch N. Hoffinger says:

    Very nice!
    As a taxpayer I resent violent criminals being released in my neighborhood or city. It seems the criminal justice system of America feeds itself at the public’s expense: more cops, more jails, more training, etc.
    I am a taxpayer and I demand the government keep my streets safe.
    Who would rehire an exterminator who let 65% of mice, roaches, etc. back into their homes?
    But nobody can stop this anti-American, self-serving selfish government!
    I should be allowed to carry a gun to protect myself from the government (‘s policies).
    Thomas Jefferson said America should have a revolution (Hopefully peaceful) every 15 years.
    If the government where to follow its own laws things would be better: Public Law 102-15 ‘The Seven Noahide Laws.’

  2. Hi Rusty: Please let us know the results. Adam.


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