Recidivism is the tendency of a convicted criminal to repeat or reoffend a crime after already receiving punishment or serving their sentence. The term is often used in conjunction with substance abuse as a synonym for “relapse” but is specifically used for criminal behavior.
The United States has some of the highest recidivism rates in the world. According to the National Institute of Justice, almost 44% of criminals released return before the first year out of prison. In 2005, about 68% of 405,000 released prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and 77% were arrested within five years.
Factors contributing to recidivism include a person’s social environment and community, their circumstances before incarceration, events during their incarceration, and, one of the main reasons, difficulty adjusting back into normal life. Many of these individuals have trouble reconnecting with family and finding a job to support themselves.
Incarceration rates in the U.S. began increasing dramatically in the 1990s. The U.S. has the highest prison population if any country, comprising 25% of the world’s prisoners. Prisons are overcrowded, and inmates are forced to live in inhumane conditions, even those who are innocent and awaiting trial.
The United States justice system places its efforts on getting criminals off of the streets by locking them up but fails to fix the issue of preventing these people from reoffending afterward. This is why many believe that the U.S. prison system is greatly flawed.
Recidivism affects everyone: the offender, their family, the victim of the crime, law enforcement, and the community overall. Crime can affect anyone in any community. If a previously-incarcerated person is released only to repeat an offense or act out a new crime, there will be new victims. Furthermore, taxpayers are impacted by the economic cost of crime and incarceration as the average per-inmate cost of incarceration in the U.S. is $31,286 per year.
Steps can be taken during incarceration to decrease recidivism. First is assessing the risks for reoffending and the criminogenic needs that contributed to breaking the law, such as a lack of self-control or an antisocial peer group. The second is to assess their individual motivators, followed by choosing the appropriate treatment program. The fourth step is to implement evidence-based programming that emphasizes cognitive-behavioral strategies, coupled with positive reinforcement that can help them recognize and feel good about positive behavior. Lastly, the formerly incarcerated need ongoing support from a good peer group, as repeat offenders who were in gang culture have the greatest challenge to stay away from that behavior.
Recividism Rate by State
According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Alabama prisons' recidivism rate is 31% for men and 21% for women. Alabama defines recidivism as returning to custody within three years of release.
According to the Alaska Department of Corrections, Alaska's recidivism rate is 66.41, with two-thirds of those individuals being reincarcerated within six months of being released. This is the highest rate in the country. Alaska defines recidivism as returning to custody within three years of release.
According to Charles Ryan, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections, the recidivism rate in Arizona is around 40%. Arizona defines recidivism as returning to custody within three years of release.
According to an Arkansas Department of Corrections report on findings from 2013, the recidivism rate in Arkansas is 58.21% over three years for those released on parole and 24.39% for those who discharged their sentence. Males had a higher recidivism rate of 57.65%, and females had a rate of 48.21%.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California's recidivism rate has averaged around 50% over the past ten years.
According to the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, the recidivism rate in Colorado is 50%.
According to the State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division, Connecticut's recidivism rate is 34%.
Delaware’s three-year recidivism rate is 64.9% percent, the second-highest rate in the country behind Alaska.
According to a study released by the Florida Department of Corrections, Florida’s recidivism rate is about 25% over three years. This is well below the national average and is one of the lowest among all states.
The state of Georgia reports a 30% recidivism rate; however, the actual recidivism rate is closer to 50% when considering the number of people who commit a technical violation while on probation or parole and the number of people who recidivate after the three-year period.
A report from the Interagency Council on Intermediate Sanctions states that the recidivism rate in Hawaii is about 48.9%.
The recidivism rate in Idaho is about 35%, and the rate for offenders who were imprisoned for parole violations average about 3% higher. Idaho has one of the lowest crime rates in the country but one of the highest incarceration rates. A large portion of those who are incarcerated are repeat offenders.
The recidivism rate in Illinois within one year of release is 17% and within three years of release is 43%. The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated that the recidivism rate would cost taxpayers $13 billion over five years if nothing is done to decrease it.
According to the Indiana Department of Correction, Indiana's recidivism rate is 33.78% for both people facing a new conviction or violating parole. This is the lowest rate in Indiana in six years.
The recidivism rate in Iowa is 38.8%. The recidivism rate is a major contributing factor to Iowa’s highest prison population count in eight years.
The Corrections Secretary of Kansas reports that the three-year recidivism rate in Kansas is 33.1%.
Kentucky’s recidivism rate is 32.2%. The recidivism rate for those on parole or probation is 52%.
According to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, the three-year recidivism rate in Louisiana is 34.1%. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rates overall in the country of 683 per 100,000.
According to the Maine Department of Correction’s Return to Custody Report, Maine’s three-year recidivism rate is 30.2%. This rate increased from 24.7% to 30.2% over four years.
Maryland’s three-year recidivism rate is 40.5%.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 32%.
Michigan’s recidivism rate is 28.1%, the lowest it has ever been and one of the ten lowest recidivism rates in the United States.
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Minnesota's three-year recidivism rate has ranged from 35-37% in recent years.
The three-year recidivism rate in Mississippi is about 33%. Mississippi’s five-year recidivism rate is more than twice that at 77%.
The most recent recidivism rate from the Missouri Department of Corrections is 43.9% for all releases and 36.9% for first-time releases.
The three-year recidivism rate is 24.4% for female offenders and 38.6% for male offenders.
The recidivism rate in Nebraska is 30.1%.
According to the Nevada Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 28.63%.
According to the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 43.1%, about the same as the national rate.
New Jersey’s recidivism rate is 29.8%, based on the most current data available from 2013. This is a significant decrease from 37% in 2007.
The three-year recidivism rate for New Mexico is about 50%.
The three-year recidivism rate for New York is about 40%.
According to the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina’s three-year recidivism rate is 40%.
Based on the most recent data available, North Dakota’s recidivism rate is 39.4%.
According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction, the three-year recidivism rate in Ohio is 31.45%
The three-year recidivism rate in Oklahoma is 20.1%, one of the lowest in the country. Despite this, Oklahoma has the second-highest incarceration rate in the country, behind Louisiana.
According to the Criminal Justice Commission of Oregon, the three-year recidivism rate is 52.9%.
According to an annual report from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate in Pennsylvania is 53.4%.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 50%. The recidivism rate for females is 37%, and for males, it is 52%.
According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate in South Carolina is 23.1%. This is one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country.
According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 43.1%. The three-year recidivism rate is 40.2% for females and 43.8% for males.
The three-year recidivism rate in Tennessee is 47.1%.
The three-year recidivism rate in Texas is 21.4%.
The recidivism rate in Utah is about 50%.
According to the Department of Correction, the recidivism rate in Vermont is 52.5%.
According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is 23.1%, tied with South Carolina. This rate is one of the lowest in the country.
Based on the most recent data available, Washington state’s three-year recidivism rate is 32.2%.
According to the most recent data available from the West Virginia Divisions of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate in West Virginia is 24.06%.
Based on the most recent data available from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, there three-year recidivism rate in Wisconsin is 31.3%.