Released Prisoners Commit Two Million Crimes – Five Arrests Per Offender
Recidivism includes the arrests, convictions and reincarceration of offenders over fixed intervals. National data is offered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, the US Sentencing Commission and other entities. For a comprehensive overview of recidivism research, see Crime in America.
The data offered here deals solely with arrests and extends to a nine-year measurement period; significantly longer than previous reports.
Before this report, 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 percent) of prisoners released were arrested for a new crime within three years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within five years.
Within 3 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 5 years of release.
The new data is based on state prisoners released in 2005 across 30 states who were arrested at least once during the 9 years following their release.
Approximately 27 percent of the former prisoners in 2005 had a violent offense as their primary charge. The current figure is 54 percent of state prisoners incarcerated for a violent offense.
What’s Important To Know
Virtually all offenders are rearrested after release from prison.
The data below indicates that violent offenders were more likely to be arrested for a violent offense. If the violent population has gone from approximately 26 percent (at the time of the study) to 54 percent of the prison population (current figure), that means the potential for hundreds of thousands (or more) of additional violent crimes upon release.
Note that this study is based on the most serious conviction. The offender could be arrested for a wide variety of violent and other crimes but only the most serious crime is counted. Please note that the overwhelming number of convictions are plea bargains where the most serious charge is routinely downgraded to get a guilty plea.
The data as to total arrests is not surprising; I viewed state data where there were categories of rearrests for released prisoners for a three-year period ranged from 70 to 80 percent, and higher.
We understand that, regardless as to the severity of the numbers involved, what’s reported here is an undercount. The vast majority of crimes are not reported and less than two in five reported crimes ends in an arrest.
There report states that there was an average of five arrests per released offender. An estimated 23% of released prisoners were responsible for half of the arrests, thus an average of five arrests is skewed by extremes at both ends of the population.
It doesn’t matter if you are pro or anti sentencing reform or any other manner of lessening the impact of incarceration, the number of arrests is astounding. It’s irresponsible of advocates for less incarceration to suggest that reducing prison sentences will not have an impact on public safety. We may decide to reduce sentences or the length of stay or the crimes eligible for prison, but suggesting that it won’t have an impact on the public’s safety is simply misleading.
We have been endlessly told by advocates for less incarceration that technical violations (not new crimes) were driving returns to prison. Ninety-nine percent of prisoners who were arrested during the 9-year follow-up period were arrested for an offense other than a probation or parole violation. They may be returned to prison for a technical violation (it’s easier to prove), but it’s probable that the root cause of that return is a new crime.
According to previous federal data, only 42 percent of felony convictions result in a sentence to prison, and most felony offenders had extensive arrest and conviction histories, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
I and others have advocated for taking a look at older prisoners as to a safe release from prison, but fairly high percentages of older released inmates are arrested again.
The 401,288 state prisoners released in 2005 had an estimated 1,994,000 arrests, an average of 5 arrests per released prisoner. Sixty percent of these arrests occurred during years 4 through 9.
More than three-quarters (77%) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within 9 years.
Eighty-four percent of male prisoners were arrested and 77% of female prisoners were arrested.
Ninety percent of prisoners age 24 or younger at release were arrested, 77% of prisoners age 40 or older at release were arrested, and 43% of prisoners age 60 or older were arrested.
An estimated 23% of released prisoners were responsible for half of the nearly 1,994,000 arrests. A similar percentage of prisoners were responsible for half of the arrests during the 3-year follow-up period (also 23%)
Seventy-nine percent of prisoners released for a violent offense had been arrested for any type of crime. Prisoners released for a violent offense were less likely to have been arrested for any type of crime than prisoners released for a property (88%) or drug (84%) offense but were more likely to have been arrested for a violent offense.
Only five percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release and were not arrested again during years 2 though 9. Among prisoners arrested during the first year following release, nearly 9 in 10 (89%) were arrested again during the next 8 years.
Excluding arrests for probation and parole violations from the analysis would have had only a small impact on the recidivism rates. In other words, 99% of prisoners who were arrested during the 9-year follow-up period were arrested for an offense other than a probation or parole violation.
Five out of six state prisoners were arrested at least once during the nine years after their release. This is the first BJS study that uses a 9-year follow-up period to examine the recidivism patterns of released prisoners. The longer follow-up period shows a much fuller picture of offending patterns and criminal activity of released prisoners than is shown by prior studies that used a 3- or 5-year follow-up period.
This 2018 update on prisoner recidivism tracks a representative sample of prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states and chronicles their arrests through 2014. In 2005, those 30 states accounted for 77% of all persons released from state prisons nationwide.
Overall, 68% of released state prisoners were arrested within three years, 79% within six years, and 83% within nine years. The 401,288 released state prisoners were arrested an estimated 2 million times during the nine years after their release, an average of five arrests per released prisoner.
On an annual basis, 44% of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release, 34% were arrested during the third year, and 24% were arrested during the ninth year. Five percent of prisoners were arrested during the first year after release and were not arrested again during the 9-year follow-up period.
Released property and drug offenders were more likely to be arrested than released violent offenders; however, released violent offenders were more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. More than three-quarters (77%) of released drug offenders were arrested for a non-drug crime within nine years, and more than a third (34%) were arrested for a violent crime.
Among prisoners arrested after release, the percentage of those arrested in another state increased each year after release. Eight percent of prisoners arrested during the first year following release were arrested outside of the state from which they were released. In comparison, 14% of prisoners arrested during the ninth year following release were arrested in another state.
Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. – Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. You can contact me at [email protected].