A new U.S. Department of Justice report reveals the tremendous number of convicts who quickly end up back in prison after their release.
The report from the department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) details recidivism rates of 404,638 state prisoners released in 30 states in 2005.
More than a third of released prisoners were arrested again within six months of their release. That number rose to 56.7% by the end of the first year, 67.8% within three years, and 76.6% within five years.
This chart show recidivism among these prisoners increases substantially within five years of their release.
The report reveals some especially worrisome trends.
- Prisoners 24 and younger upon their release were more likely to be arrested in the next five years — 84.1% of them were arrested within five years, compared with 78.6% of the released prisoners ages 25-39 and 69.2% for ages 40 and older.
- 57.7% were arrested multiple times in the five years after their release, and just 16.1% of them were responsible for nearly half of the 1.2 million arrests in that period.
- Black offenders had the highest recidivism rate after five years — 80.8% compared with 73.1% among whites and 75.3% among Hispanics.
These are the breakdowns of those arrested for a new crime within five years, based on the types of crimes that originally landed them in prison:
- 71.3% of violent offenders (homicide, rape/sexual assault, robbery, assault, other)
- 73.6% of public order offenders (weapons, driving under the influence, other)
- 76.9% of drug offenders (possession, trafficking, other)
- 82.1% of property offenders (burglary, larceny/motor vehicle theft, fraud/forgery, other)
In a recent New York Times column, the journalist Bill Keller criticised America’s prisons as ineffective and costly institutions. In the case of newly released prisoners, Keller supports counseling programs, a repeal of rules banning them from certain jobs, and job applications that don’t require them to reveal their prior arrests.
Keller also calls for closer supervision of released inmates on parole and probation, to encourage changes in their behaviour, as well as special courts that force offenders to get treatment for addictions that might make them turn to crime in the first place.
“We release more than 650,000 prisoners into society every year,” he wrote, “often just dropping them on a curb to fend for themselves.”
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