Crime in America
We have praised research from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy in the past as being user friendly and to-the-point. The Institute may be the most influential source of criminal justice data beyond the US Department of Justice.
The summary below provides an overview of recidivism rates (in this case, convictions for felonies and violent felonies) for 17 years and the news is positive for a variety of reasons. It shows that:
- You can accurately use instruments to judge an offender’s level of risk to the community
- You get the best results by focusing on the high-risk offender
- You use “evidence based” practices to drive down rates of reoffending. By evidence-based, we mean tactics based on successful research.
- It’s possible to lower rates of reoffending.
The only caution is that the results are modest which is indicative of most programs that show reductions in reoffending.
We are still in our infancy as to the precise reasons for the success of programs in prison and beyond. Most criminologists are hopeful that we can create larger reductions as we learn more.
The report (as amended by us):
In 2007, using these adult and juvenile criminal history data, the Institute developed a risk assessment tool to predict an offender’s probability of recidivism. Using the assessment, DOC classifies offenders into one of four risk levels: lower, moderate, high non-violent or high violent risk for re-offense.
Information in this report is presented for 17 annual “cohorts” of offenders from 1990 through 2006. A cohort includes all offenders in a given year who were released from prison. Recidivism is defined as any felony offense committed by an offender within three years of being at-risk in the community that results in a Washington State conviction.
We analyzed two categories of recidivism: Any type of felony conviction, and violent felony convictions for close to 70,000 Washington State offenders.
The analysis reveals quite notable and favorable recidivism trends in Washington. Since 1990, recidivism rates have declined for all four risk classification levels. The largest reductions have been for higher risk offenders. High violent risk offenders: rates dropped 18 percentage points for felony recidivism and 7 percentage points for violent recidivism.
High non-violent level offenders: rates declined 12 percentage points for felony recidivism and 4 percentage points for violent recidivism.
Moderate risk level offenders: rates fell 5 percentage points for felony recidivism and 4 percentage points for violent recidivism.
Lower risk level offenders: rates dropped 1 percentage point for felony recidivism and 2 percentage points for violent recidivism.
The classification tool helps to distinguish offenders’ risk for recidivism, including the probability of violent recidivism.