Report: The more time spent in jail, the less likely is a criminal will return to crime again


HOUSTON, TX – There are endless debates regarding incarceration and the impact on recidivism and future criminality. 

Most of the observations come from advocacy groups and criminologists insisting that America has the highest rate of incarceration but the impact of prison on crime or future criminality is negligible to nonexistent.

Example: “But how much safety does all this imprisonment actually buy us? A study I recently published with colleagues shows the answer is very little, especially in the long-term,” Scientific American.

But after decades of debate, and after the majority of states took action to reduce correctional populations, Pew, the reduction in the prison population has been less than 10%, and most of that is probably attributed to far less crime, far fewer police-citizen contacts and a 25% reduction in arrests, see Bureau Of Justice Statistics for the numbers.

Thus the impact of criminal justice reform, a movement of dozens of major organizations and endless media articles over decades, seems to be insubstantial at best.

There are four primary reasons for the high rate of incarceration in the United States.

Recidivism data states that people released from prison will continue to commit crimes. The vast majority of people released from prison return to the justice system.

Recidivism is based on those released from prison who are arrested, convicted, or incarcerated again. The most common understanding of recidivism is based on state data from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, stating that two-thirds (68%) of prisoners released were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77%) were arrested within five years.

Within three years of release, 49.7% of inmates either had an arrest that resulted in a conviction with a disposition of a prison sentence or were returned to prison without a new conviction because they violated a technical condition of their release, as did 55.1% of inmates within five years of release, Recidivism.

At the most fundamental level, most people believe that public safety takes precedence. Most crimes are not reported to law enforcement, most reported crime does not end in arrest, and many arrests are not prosecuted. It’s obvious that the numbers cited above are undercounts.

Second, as to the impact of correctional rehabilitation programs, most do not reduce recidivism, and even when there are reductions, they are generally small, National Institute Of Justice.

The third reason for the lack of reform is the criminal histories of those in prison. The vast majority have multiple arrests and convictions, Criminal Histories.

Finally, most believe that people in prison deserve to be there based on the serious nature of their crimes and criminal histories. Fifty-six percent are “currently” there for a violent crime and if you take previous arrests and convictions into consideration, most have violent or serious criminal histories.

In 2016, the Commission began its current multi-publication recidivism series. The first publication, Recidivism Among Federal Offenders: A Comprehensive Overview, examined recidivism among more than 25,000 federal offenders who were either released from federal prison or placed on a term of probation.

The Commission’s report, The Past Predicts the Future: Criminal History and Recidivism of Federal Offenders (2017), studied the relationship between criminal history and recidivism. The Commission’s report, The Effects of Aging on Recidivism Among Federal Offenders (2017), analyzed the impact of aging on federal offender recidivism.

The Commission also released three reports that examined recidivism among specific groups of federal offenders: Recidivism Among Federal Drug Trafficking Offenders (2017), Recidivism Among Federal Violent Offenders (2019), and Recidivism Among Federal Firearms Offenders (2019).

This study below is the seventh in the recidivism series, examines the relationship between the length of incarceration and recidivism.

The Commission consistently found that incarceration lengths of more than 120 months had a deterrent effect.

Each of the research designs estimated that offenders incarcerated for more than 120 months were less likely to recidivate eight years after release.

In the two models with the larger sample sizes, offenders incarcerated for more than 120 months were approximately 30% less likely to recidivate relative to a comparison group receiving less incarceration.

In the third model, offenders incarcerated for more than 120 months were approximately 45% less likely to recidivate relative to a comparison group receiving less incarceration.

In two models, the deterrent effect extended to incarceration lengths of more than 60 months.

Specifically, offenders incarcerated for more than 60 months up to 120 months were approximately 17% less likely to recidivate relative to a comparison group sentenced to a shorter period of incarceration.

LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity.  We reinvest the proceeds into sharing their untold stories. Click to check it out.

Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

For incarceration lengths of 60 months or less, the Commission did not find any statistically significant criminogenic or deterrent effect.

When focusing on the shortest period of incarceration studied (12 to 24 months), the research designs yielded varying results, neither of which were statistically significant nor sufficiently reliable to make evidence-based conclusions.

The Commission selected an eight-year follow-up period and identified rearrest as the recidivism event. Rearrest is the most reliably reported measure of recidivism and, consequently, is the primary indicator utilized by researchers. Rearrest classifies a person as a recidivist if he or she has been arrested for a new crime after being released into the community directly on probation or after serving a term of imprisonment. Rearrest also includes arrests for alleged violations of supervised release, probation, or state parole. Thus, any rearrest, apart from minor traffic offenses, was considered recidivism.

Source: US Sentencing Commission

I’m not suggesting that criminal justice reform should be ignored or brushed aside. There are a multitude of actions we can take to examine who is in prison and whether the length of sentences are just or appropriate.

Legalization or the decriminalization of marijuana and harsh prison sentences from rural areas are two examples. There are many others.

I also know of hundreds of former inmates who have done well and are currently living crime-free lives while supporting their families and communities. We shouldn’t forget that.

But my bewilderment with the lack of change begins and ends with the perception that most politicians and Americans believe that people doing the crime should serve the time, especially when told that most in prison have significant criminal histories with violent backgrounds. It’s the only reasonable conclusion for the lack of reform.

And if truth be told, most reform efforts have little to do with humanitarian endeavors. Every governor in the country has had conversations with their correctional commissioners emploring them to hold the line regarding their budgets. Governors and advocates have tried multiple avenues of reform with little to show for it in terms of reduced correctional populations. Why?

Per the US Sentencing Commission, longer prison terms produce substantially less recidivism and crime. So what’s more humane, fewer women sexually assaulted or efforts to decrease the prison population?

Placed in the context of massive recidivism and the criminal histories of prison inmates plus the negligible results of rehabilitation programs, the data is important from a public safety perspective.

Critics will point out that The US Sentencing Commission studied federal inmates. There are substantial differences between federal and state correctional systems with the Federal Bureau of Prisons holding a multitude of immigration and drug trafficking offenders and the states primarily holding violent offenders, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

But the bottom line is that The US Sentencing Commission has created a variety of reports correlating the relationship between criminal history and recidivism and now, with this study, we have a methodologically correct, large examination stating that longer periods of incarceration substantially reduce crime and recidivism.

See More

See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.

Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.

US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.

National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.

The Crime in America.Net RSS feed ( provides subscribers with a means to stay informed about the latest news, publications, and other announcements from the site.


Contact us at [email protected]

Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.

Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing! (See image below.) Thanks for being a part of the LET family!

Facebook Follow First

Related Posts