Statistics on Recidivism


States may define ‘recidivism’ in various ways. The Bureau of Justice Department defines recidivism as follows:

“Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in the rearrest, reconviction, or return to prison with or without a new sentence within a three-year period following the prisoner’s release.”

67 percent of former inmates released from state prisons in 1994
committed at least one serious new crime within the following three years.


A New Report Finds National Recidivism Rates are Above 40%

April 14, 2011 by Vikrant P. Reddy

Yesterday the Pew Center on the States released a new report with a depressing finding: more than 40 % of offenders return to state prisons within three years of being released. The report, entitled State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons, again raises the question that Right On Crime has persistently asked: are Americans taxpayers receiving an acceptable return on their investment in prisons?

The answer is no, if 40% of inmates merely return to prison within a few years because ineffective rehabilitation practices are being used. Taxpayers find themselves paying over and over again to confine the exact same people. According to the Pew report, if states could find a way to reduce recidivism by just ten percent, the states could save “more than $635 million combined in one year alone in averted prison costs.”



During 2007, a total of 1,180,469 persons on parole were at-risk of reincarceration. This includes persons under parole supervision on January 1 or those entering parole during the year. Of these parolees, about 16% were returned to incarceration in 2007.
Among nearly 300,000 prisoners released in 15 states in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within 3 years. A study of prisoners released in 1983 estimated 62.5%.
Of the 272,111 persons released from prisons in 15 states in 1994, an estimated 67.5% were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years, 46.9% were reconvicted, and 25.4% resentenced to prison for a new crime.
These offenders had accumulated 4.1 million arrest charges before their most recent imprisonment and another 744,000 charges within 3 years of release.
Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

Source: Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994 | Source: The Bureau for Justice Statistics


At year-end 2008, the total incarcerated population totaled 2,424,279 inmates. The total incarcerated population comprises all inmates held in custody in state or federal public prisons, local jails, U.S. territories, military facilities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, jails in Indian country, and juvenile facilities.


Total Incarcerated Population in 2008

Source: Sabol, William J., PhD, West, Heather C., PhD, and Matthew Cooper, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2008 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 2009), NCJ228417. p. 8.


Over 7.2 million persons on probation or parole or incarcerated in jail or prison at year-end 2006. “About 3.2% of the U.S. adult population, or 1 in every 31 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at year-end 2006.”



Henslin’s Intro to Sociology – Recidivism of US Prisoners


Recidivism of U.S. PrisonersNOTE: The individuals were not necessarily rearrested for the same crime for which they had originally been imprisoned. Source: By the author: Based on Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2003: Table 6.50.


At least 95% of all State prisoners will be released from prison at some point; nearly 80% will be released to parole supervision.
At year end 2002, 1,440,655 prisoners were under the jurisdiction of State or Federal correctional authorities.
In 2001, about 592,000 State prison inmates were released to the community after serving time in prison.
Nearly 33% of State prison releases in 1999 were drug offenders, 25% were violent offenders and 31% were property offenders.


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