What is recidivism?

The definition of recidivism

What is recidivism?
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood

We often start with the dictionary when we seek to understand a term that we are unfamiliar with. The dictionary defines recidivism as, “The tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend.”

For those who have been incarcerated this means that they often find themselves back in jail or prison after their release. Unfortunately, the statistics show that there is a high rate of repeat actions that lead to re-arrest, re-conviction and/or return to prison. Recidivism is a relapse into criminal behavior. People need resources to change their perspective, expand their opportunities and dream of a better future.

How prevalent is recidivism?

Without a positive vision and support, too many individuals are choosing to return to criminal behavior. The Bureau of Justice Statistics conducted a study in 2005 of over four hundred thousand prisoners in 30 states who had been released. The study revealed that:

  • Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
  • Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.

In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions noted that the recidivism rate was “unacceptably high”. In the United States, we are aware that our punitive system of justice is not achieving reduction in crime or negative impact to society. We believe that there is hope to positively affect change through providing a pathway to resources for those looking for change.

What is the impact of recidivism?

Sessions commented that the impact of recidivism includes, “More costs for society, more dangerous work for our law enforcement officers, and more crime.” The United States spends nearly 300 billion annually on funding the criminal justice system as well as maintaining prisons. The New York Times reported that reducing recidivism by even 10% could provide cost savings of over $600 million in just the first year. This is just the reduction in cost to the state criminal justice budgets, but does not begin to account for the reduction in cost and impact to victims, families and communities affected by recurring crime.

What can be done to reduce recidivism?

In the article previously referenced, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared, “The Department of Justice is committed to improving outcomes for those reintegrating into society who want to abide by our laws.” We believe that improving outcomes for reintegration include connecting those individuals who were formerly incarcerated with resources that help them to recycle their lives. If we work together at the federal, state, county, community and family levels we can effect changes that will improve our country on a broad scale. Groups such as United Purpose Network are trying to make sure every individual that is reintegrating from prison knows that there are resources available to help them unlock their potential.



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