Recidivism Rates by Country 2022

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.

Australia

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 53% Reconviction 2014-15
2 years 39% Reimprisonment 2009-10
2 years 45% Reimprisonment 2014-15

Austria

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 15% Reconviction 2013
2 years 26% Reconviction 2013
3 years 32% Reconviction 2013
4 years 41% Reconviction 2013

Canada

Region Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
Canada 2 years 41% Reconviction 1994-95
Canada - Ontario 2 years 35% Reconviction 2014-15
Canada - Quebec 2 years 55% Reconviction 2007-08
Canada - Quebec 2 years 43% Reimprisonment 2007-08

Chile

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 39% Reconviction 2010
3 years 50% Reimprisonment 2007

Denmark

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 51% Reconviction 2013
2 years 29% Reconviction 2005
2 years 63% Reconviction 2013

Estonia

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 16% Reconviction 2013-14
2 years 59% Re-arrest 2013-14
2 years 35% Reconviction 2013-14
5 years 76% Re-arrest 2011-12
5 years 58% Reconviction 2011-12

Finland

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 36% Reconviction 2005

France

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 26% Reconviction 2004
2 years 40% Reconviction 2004
3 years 48% Reconviction 2004
4 years 54% Reconviction 2004
5 years 59% Reconviction 2002
5 years 58% Reconviction 2004
5 years 46% Reimprisonment 2002
6 years 61% Reconviction 2004

Germany

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
3 years 48% Reconviction 2004
3 years 46% Reconviction 2007
3 years 35% Reimprisonment 2004

Iceland

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 27% Reconviction 2005
2 years 27% Reconviction 2009-11

Ireland

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
3 years 51% Reconviction 2013
3 years 45% Reconviction 2010

Israel

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 18% Reimprisonment 2008
2 years 28% Reimprisonment 2008
3 years 34% Reimprisonment 2008
4 years 38% Reimprisonment 2008
5 years 43% Reimprisonment 2004
5 years 41% Reimprisonment 2008

Italy

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
3 years 28% Re-arrest 2001-09

Latvia

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
29 months 50% Reconviction 2009

Netherlands

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
1 year 35% Reconviction 2013
2 years 48% Reconviction 2007

New Zealand

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
6 months 18% Reimprisonment 2002-03
1 year 46% Reconviction 2015-16
1 year 26% Reimprisonment 2002-03
1 year 32% Reimprisonment 2015-16
2 years 61% Reconviction 2015-16
2 years 37% Reimprisonment 2002-03
2 years 43% Reimprisonment 2015-16
3 years 44% Reimprisonment 2002-03
4 years 49% Reimprisonment 2002-03
5 years 52% Reimprisonment 2002-03

Norway

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 20% Reconviction 2005

Singapore

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 27% Reconviction 2011

South Korea

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
3 years 24% Reimprisonment 2002

Sweden

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
2 years 43% Reconviction 2005

United Kingdom

Region Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
U.K. (England/Wales) 1 year 46% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 1 year 45% Reconviction 2013
U.K. (England/Wales) 2 years 59% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 3 years 66% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 4 years 70% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 5 years 72% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 6 years 74% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 7 years 76% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 8 years 77% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (England/Wales) 9 years 78% Reconviction 2000
U.K. (Northern Ireland) 6 months 9% Reconviction 2005
U.K. (Northern Ireland) 1 year 25% Reconviction 2005
U.K. (Northern Ireland) 2 years 47% Reconviction 2005
U.K. (Scotland) 1 year 46% Reconviction 2009-10

United States

Follow-Up Rate (%) Type Years Studied
6 months 13% Reconviction 2005-10
6 months 10% Reimprisonment 2005-10
1 year 23% Reconviction 2005-10
1 year 17% Reimprisonment 2005-10
2 years 36% Reconviction 2005-10
2 years 29% Reimprisonment 2005-10
3 years 45% Reconviction 2005-10
3 years 36% Reimprisonment 2005-10
4 years 51% Reconviction 2005-10
4 years 41% Reimprisonment 2005-10
5 years 55% Reconviction 2005-10
5 years 45% Reimprisonment 2005-10

Recidivism Rates by Country 2022

Recidivism Rates by Country 2022

Sources