Recidivism Rates by Country 2023

Recidivism is defined as the relapse of criminal behavior that results in the re-arrest, reconviction, and/or reimprisonment of an individual. The odds of an individual receding are affected by several factors such as the person’s circumstances before incarceration, their social environment and community, and events during their incarceration. Arguably the most impactful variable of all is the person's ability to reintegrate into society—many newly released former prisoners find it difficult to find work, reconnect with family members, and return to everyday life.

Recidivism affects everyone: the offender, their family, the victim of the crime, law enforcement, and the community overall. Recidivism is an important part of many discussions involving crime rates by country, the harshness of prison sentences, and whether social programs designed to educate and assist instead of punish provide a better long-term solution than do prisons. Societies with high recidivism rates tend to have higher prison populations as a result, which creates a larger tax burden upon the community. Recidivism rates vary significantly around the world, but are reported to be as high as 50% and do not seem to have declined in recent years.

The challenge of measuring recidivism around the world

Attempts to compare recidivism between countries can be quite challenging. Many countries have insufficient data on the subject, and even among those countries that do track it, the definition of recidivism often differs from one nation to the next.

In some countries, only reimprisonment counts as recidivism. Other countries apply the recidivism label earlier in the process, such as when a person is reconvicted or even just re-arrested. Countries also differ in whether or not they count certain low-level offenses such as misdemeanors, fines, or traffic violations.

Additionally, follow-up times—the period after release from incarceration—are often inconsistent between and even within jurisdictions. If one country measures recidivism using a six-month follow-up period, another uses two years, and a third uses five years, the data cannot be accurately compared.

Recidivism rates for 21 countries around the world

In their study A Systematic Review of Criminal Recidivism Rates Worldwide: Current Difficulties and Recommendation for Best Practice published in PLoS-ONE in 2015 (and revisited in 2019), researchers Seena Fazel and Achim Wolf collected recidivism rates from 21 countries, tracking follow-up periods ranging from six months to nine years. Measured recidivism rates tracked included reconviction, reimprisonment, or on rare occasions, re-arrest. The most commonly reported statistics were 2-year reconviction rates. Information for each country studied is provided below. Included are selection period, follow-up period, rate, and whether the information provided is based on re-arrest, reconviction, or reimprisonment. Most countries have multiple data sets, which illustrate the tendency for an individual's chance of recidivism to increase over time.


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years53%Reconviction2014-15
2 years39%Reimprisonment2009-10
2 years45%Reimprisonment2014-15


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year15%Reconviction2013
2 years26%Reconviction2013
3 years32%Reconviction2013
4 years41%Reconviction2013


RegionFollow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
Canada2 years41%Reconviction1994-95
Canada - Ontario2 years35%Reconviction2014-15
Canada - Quebec2 years55%Reconviction2007-08
Canada - Quebec2 years43%Reimprisonment2007-08


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years39%Reconviction2010
3 years50%Reimprisonment2007


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year51%Reconviction2013
2 years29%Reconviction2005
2 years63%Reconviction2013


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year16%Reconviction2013-14
2 years59%Re-arrest2013-14
2 years35%Reconviction2013-14
5 years76%Re-arrest2011-12
5 years58%Reconviction2011-12


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years36%Reconviction2005


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year26%Reconviction2004
2 years40%Reconviction2004
3 years48%Reconviction2004
4 years54%Reconviction2004
5 years59%Reconviction2002
5 years58%Reconviction2004
5 years46%Reimprisonment2002
6 years61%Reconviction2004


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
3 years48%Reconviction2004
3 years46%Reconviction2007
3 years35%Reimprisonment2004


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years27%Reconviction2005
2 years27%Reconviction2009-11


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
3 years51%Reconviction2013
3 years45%Reconviction2010


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year18%Reimprisonment2008
2 years28%Reimprisonment2008
3 years34%Reimprisonment2008
4 years38%Reimprisonment2008
5 years43%Reimprisonment2004
5 years41%Reimprisonment2008


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
3 years28%Re-arrest2001-09


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
29 months50%Reconviction2009


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
1 year35%Reconviction2013
2 years48%Reconviction2007

New Zealand

Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
6 months18%Reimprisonment2002-03
1 year46%Reconviction2015-16
1 year26%Reimprisonment2002-03
1 year32%Reimprisonment2015-16
2 years61%Reconviction2015-16
2 years37%Reimprisonment2002-03
2 years43%Reimprisonment2015-16
3 years44%Reimprisonment2002-03
4 years49%Reimprisonment2002-03
5 years52%Reimprisonment2002-03


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years20%Reconviction2005


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years27%Reconviction2011

South Korea

Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
3 years24%Reimprisonment2002


Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
2 years43%Reconviction2005

United Kingdom

RegionFollow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
U.K. (England/Wales)1 year46%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)1 year45%Reconviction2013
U.K. (England/Wales)2 years59%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)3 years66%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)4 years70%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)5 years72%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)6 years74%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)7 years76%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)8 years77%Reconviction2000
U.K. (England/Wales)9 years78%Reconviction2000
U.K. (Northern Ireland)6 months9%Reconviction2005
U.K. (Northern Ireland)1 year25%Reconviction2005
U.K. (Northern Ireland)2 years47%Reconviction2005
U.K. (Scotland)1 year46%Reconviction2009-10

United States

Follow-UpRate (%)TypeYears Studied
6 months13%Reconviction2005-10
6 months10%Reimprisonment2005-10
1 year23%Reconviction2005-10
1 year17%Reimprisonment2005-10
2 years36%Reconviction2005-10
2 years29%Reimprisonment2005-10
3 years45%Reconviction2005-10
3 years36%Reimprisonment2005-10
4 years51%Reconviction2005-10
4 years41%Reimprisonment2005-10
5 years55%Reconviction2005-10
5 years45%Reimprisonment2005-10

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Recidivism Rates by Country 2023

Which country has the highest recidivism rate?

Countries that track recidivism use different time frames and definitions, which makes comparisons difficult. Based on a two-year follow-up, Denmark has the highest recidivism rate of 63% reconviction.

Frequently Asked Questions