Recidivism is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior. It is also known as the percentage of former prisoners who are rearrested.

The term is most frequently used in conjunction with substance abuse
Substance abuse
A substance-related disorder is an umbrella term used to describe several different conditions associated with several different substances .A substance related disorder is a condition in which an individual uses or abuses a...

 (often synonymous with "relapse
Relapse, in relation to drug misuse, is resuming the use of a drug or a dependent substance after one or more periods of abstinence. The term is a landmark feature of both substance dependence and substance abuse, which are learned behaviors, and is maintained by neuronal adaptations that mediate...

" - more commonly used in medicine and in the disease model of addiction
Disease model of addiction
The disease model of addiction describes an addiction as a lifelong disease involving biologic and environmental sources of origin. The traditional medical model of disease requires only that an abnormal condition be present that causes discomfort, dysfunction, or distress to the individual...

) and criminal behavior. For example, scientific literature may refer to the recidivism of sexual offenders
Sex and the law
In general, laws proscribe acts which are considered either sexual abuse, or behavior that societies consider to be inappropriate and against the social norms. In addition, certain categories of activity may be considered crimes even if freely consented to...

, meaning the frequency with which they are detected or apprehended committing additional sexual crimes after being released from prison for similar crimes.

Criminal recidivism is highly correlated with psychopathy
Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime...

. The psychopath is defined by an uninhibited gratification
Gratification is the pleasurable emotional reaction of happiness in response to a fulfillment of a desire or goal.Gratification, like all emotions, is a motivator of behavior and thus plays a role in the entire range of human social systems....

 in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses
Instinct or innate behavior is the inherent inclination of a living organism toward a particular behavior.The simplest example of an instinctive behavior is a fixed action pattern, in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a...

 and the inability to learn from past mistakes. Individuals with this disorder gain satisfaction through their antisocial behavior and lack remorse for their actions.

To be counted as recidivism, the re-offending requires voluntary disclosure of arrest and conviction, so the real recidivism rate may differ substantially from reported rates. As another example, alcoholic recidivism might refer to the proportion of people who, after successful treatment, report having, or are determined to have, returned to the abuse of alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....



The effect of incarceration on former prisoners has been a very common topic of discussion for many years. In most cases, it is believed that many prisoners will find themselves right back where they started, in jail. In the United States, 53% of arrested males and 39% of arrested females are re-incarcerated (2003).

In recent history, the rate of incarceration
Incarceration is the detention of a person in prison, typically as punishment for a crime .People are most commonly incarcerated upon suspicion or conviction of committing a crime, and different jurisdictions have differing laws governing the function of incarceration within a larger system of...

 in the U.S. has increased dramatically, resulting in prisons being filled to capacity with bad conditions and environment for inmates. In many prisons, crime continues inside the prison walls. Gangs exist and flourish on the inside, often with many key tactical decisions being made by leaders who are in jail.

According to a national study, within 3 years almost 7 out of 10 released males will find themselves back in prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

. The study says this happens due to personal and situation characteristics, including the individual’s social environment of peers, family, community, and state-level policies.

Many other things need to be taken into consideration as well, such as the individual’s circumstances before incarceration
Incarceration is the detention of a person in prison, typically as punishment for a crime .People are most commonly incarcerated upon suspicion or conviction of committing a crime, and different jurisdictions have differing laws governing the function of incarceration within a larger system of...

, the things that happened while they were incarcerated, and the period after they are released from prison, both immediate and long term.

One of the main reasons why they find themselves back in jail is because it is difficult for the individual to fit back in with ‘normal’ life. They have to reestablish ties with their family, return to high-risk places and secure formal identification; they often have a poor work history and now have a criminal record to deal with. Many prisoners report being anxious about their release; they are excited about how their life will be different “this time” which does not always end up being the case.


Findings indicate psychopathic prisoners have a 2.5 time higher probability of being released from jail than undiagnosed ones, even though they are more likely to recidivate.

It has been shown that punishment and behavior modification techniques do not improve the behavior of a psychopath. Psychopathic individuals have been regularly observed to become more cunning and better able to hide their behaviour. It has been suggested that traditional therapeutic
This is a list of types of therapy .* Adventure therapy* Animal-assisted therapy* Aquatic therapy* Aromatherapy* Art and dementia* Art therapy* Authentic Movement* Behavioral therapy* Bibliotherapy* Buteyko Method* Chemotherapy...

 approaches actually create psychopaths, if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable.

Psychopaths also have a markedly distorted sense of the potential consequences of their actions, not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not, for example, deeply recognize the risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behaviour.

Recidivism rates

As reported on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 on 2 September 2005, the recidivism rates for released prisoners in the United States of America is 60% compared with 50% in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 but cross-country statistical comparisons are often questionable. The report attributed the lower recidivism rate in the UK to a focus on rehabilitation and education of prisoners compared with the US focus on punishment, deterrence
Deterrence (legal)
Deterrence is the use of punishment as a threat to deter people from committing a crime. Deterrence is often contrasted with retributivism, which holds that punishment is a necessary consequence of a crime and should be calculated based on the gravity of the wrong done.- Categories :Deterrence can...

 and keeping potentially dangerous individuals away from society.

The United States Department of Justice
United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...

 tracked the rearrest, re-conviction, and re-incarceration of former inmates for 3 years after their release from prisons in 15 states in 1994. Key findings include:
  • Released prisoners with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%), larcenists (74.6%), motor vehicle thieves (78.8%), those in prison for possessing or selling stolen property (77.4%), and those in prison for possessing, using, or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

  • Within 3 years, 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2% of those who had served time for homicide were arrested for homicide. These are the lowest rates of re-arrest for the same category of crime.

  • The 272,111 offenders discharged in 1994 had accumulated 4.1 million arrest charges before their most recent imprisonment and another 744,000 charges within 3 years of release.

Former criminals rose to become some of America's greatest leaders in law, industry, and politics. This possibility seems to be narrowing as criminal records become electronically stored and accessible.

An accused's history of convictions are called antecedent
Antecedent (law)
Antecedents are the life history and previous convictions of a defendant in a criminal case. They are colloquially known as "previous convictions" in the U.K. and "prior convictions" in the United States and Australia.When a defendant is being sentenced for a crime, the court will be told his or...

s, known colloquially as "previous" or "form" in the UK and "priors" in the United States and Australia.

Certain organizations are currently working towards lowering recidivism rates that is equivalent to that of every male in NYC will be arrested four times by sixty and black males ten times, the highest in the country and the world. Through the re-integration of ex-detainees into society by helping them obtain work, teaching them various societal skills, and by providing all-around support. One organization that works on meeting inmates at their point of entry (in jail) is JUST of DuPage in IL. Other such organizations that is currently based in New York City is Exodus Transitional Community
Exodus Transitional Community
The Exodus Transitional Community is a non-profit organization that provides support services to men and women who are in transition from incarceration to full-integration into their communities...

 and Think Outside the Cell

Minnesota Department of Corrections

Many studies have shown a correlation between prisoners attending rehabilitation programs while incarcerated and their likelihood of recidivism. Most have no significant results, although, some studies have shown a positive correlation. The findings that have shown significant results are normally boot camp experiments that have aftercare programs for at least four months.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections did a study on criminals who are in prison to see if rehabilitation during incarceration correlates with recidivism and/or saved the state money. They used the Minnesota’s Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) which consisted of three phases. The first was a six month institutional phase followed by two aftercare phases, each lasting at least six months, for a total of about eighteen months. The first phase was the “boot camp” phase. Here inmates had daily schedules sixteen hours long where they participated in activities and showed discipline. Some activities in phase one included physical training, manual labor, skills training, drug therapy, and transition planning. The second and third phases were called “community phases.” In phase two the participants are on intensive supervised release (ISR). ISR includes being in contact with your supervisor on a daily basis, being a full-time employee, keeping curfew, passing random drug and alcohol tests, and doing community service while continuing to participate completely in the program. The final phase is phase three. During this phase one is still on ISR and has to remain in the community while maintaining a full-time job. They have to continue with community service and their participation in the program. Once phase three is complete participants have “graduated” CIP. They are then put on supervision until the end of their sentence. Inmates who drop out or fail to complete the program are sent back to prison to serve the rest of their sentence.

Information was gathered through a quasi experimental design. This compared the recidivism rates of the CIP participants with a control group. The findings of the study have shown that the CIP program did not significantly reduce the chances of recidivism. However CIP did increase the amount of time before rearrest. Moreover, CIP early release graduates lower the costs for the state by millions every year.

This study has shown that the CIP program significantly increases the amount of time after a prisoner is let out to commit another crime. It also saves millions of dollars every year for the state.

Jefferson County, Kentucky

A study was done by Robert Stanz in Jefferson County, Kentucky which discussed an alternative to jail time. The alternative was considered “home incarceration
Incarceration is the detention of a person in prison, typically as punishment for a crime .People are most commonly incarcerated upon suspicion or conviction of committing a crime, and different jurisdictions have differing laws governing the function of incarceration within a larger system of...

”, where the defendant would complete his or her time at home instead of in jail. According to the text, “Results show that the majority of offenders do successfully complete the program, but that a majority are also re-arrested within 5 years of completion”. In doing this, they added to the rate of recidivism.

In doing a study on the results of this program, Stanz considered age, race, neighborhood, and several other aspects. Most of the defendants who fell under the recidivism category included those who were younger, those who were sentenced for multiple charges, those accruing fewer technical violations, males, and those of African-American descent.

In contrast, a study published by the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies
African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies
The African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies is a biannual peer-reviewed open-access academic journal covering issues relevant to criminology, social, and justice systems of interest to Africa...

 in 2005 used data from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to examine 2,810 juvenile offenders who were released in the 1999/2000 fiscal year.
The study built a socio-demographic of the offenders who were returned to the correctional system within a year of release.
There was no significant difference between black offenders and white offenders.
The study concluded that race does not play an important role in juvenile recidivism.
The findings ran counter to conventional beliefs on the subject, which may not have controlled for other variables.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy (MMT)

A study was done on the recidivism rate of inmates going through MMT (Methadone Maintenance Therapy). What this therapy does is instead of putting heroin addicts through withdrawal, they would be administered small doses of methadone
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, used medically as an analgesic and a maintenance anti-addictive for use in patients with opioid dependency. It was developed in Germany in 1937...

, which was hoping to aid in the recovery of heroin addicts. The study was done with 589 inmates who were booked between November 22, 2005, which was the start of the MMT program, and October 31, 2006. The outcome of the study was that there was no significant effect to the recidivism rate. “There was no statistically significant effect of receiving methadone in the jail or dosage on subsequent recidivism risks”. Some of the recidivism rate factors included age, gender, final dosage received (mg), race and previous bookings days in jail. The study explained that aiding in the withdrawal process of heroin addicts has no adverse side effects on the recidivism rate of those individuals. This is viewed as important to the authors because it shows that individuals are able to help out in the withdrawal period without necessarily causing them to slip back into addiction (or at least be any more prone to being rearrested than they were before).

Rikers Island

The recidivism rate in the New York City jail system is as high as 65%. The jail at Rikers Island, in New York, is making efforts to reduce this statistic by teaching horticulture to its inmates. It is shown that the inmates that go through this type of rehabilitation
Rehabilitation (penology)
Rehabilitation means; To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or To restore to good condition, operation, or capacity....

 have significantly lower rates of recidivism. Out of 340,000 males, 200,000 black males are arrested yearly by the NYPD out of a population of 1,200,000 black males. When a Rikers Island prisoner is released, having an arrest on their resume reduces a person's lifetime income by over 50% and two thirds when convicted.

United States Nationwide

Every male will be arrested equivalent of twice by 65, reducing male income by more then 50% to 18 cents of every house hold dollar spent. Cutting tax revenue and credit ratings of local and national government. The recidivism rate for prisoners released from prison within one year is 44.1%; this number rises to 67.5% within three years of being released from prison. Sixty-seven percent of the people who were rearrested were charged with 750,000 new crimes, which include property offenses, drug offenses, public-order offenses, other offences, unknown, and over 100,000 of these crimes were violent crimes. Of the new violent crimes committed, 2,871 were murder and 2,444 were rape.
Male prisoners are exposed and subject to sexual and physical violence in prisons today. Each year, as many as 70% of inmates in prisons are assaulted by another inmate. When these events occur, the victim usually suffers emotionally and/or physically. Further, leading the inmate to accept these types of behaviors and value their life and the lives of others less when they are released. These dehumanizing acts combined with the learned violent behavior have much influence in the causes of recidivism.


A study by the University of Nevada, Reno on recidivism rates across the United States showed that Arizona has the lowest rate of recidivism among offenders compared to all other U.S states at only 24.6 percent


Seven out of ten prisoners in California return to jail or prison within three years. This is the highest recidivism rate in the nation. In order to render this statistic, the prisoners will receive counseling, risk assessment, housing assistance, drug treatment and so on. Also, more health care is provided and available in the state for all inmates. This high recidivism rate contributes greatly to the overcrowding of jails and prisons in California.


A study conducted in Connecticut followed 16,486 prisoners for a three-year period to see how many of them would end up going back to jail. Results from the study found that about 37% of offenders were rearrested for a new crime and sent to prison again within the first three years they were released. Of the 16,486 prisoners, about 56% of them were convicted of a new crime.


In 2001, the Florida Department of Corrections created a graph showing the general recidivism rate of all offenders released from prison from July 1993 until six and a half years later. This graph shows that recidivism is much more likely within the first six months after they are released. The longer the offenders stayed out of prison, the less likely they were to return.


A study by the University of Nevada, Reno on recidivism rates across the United States showed that Nevada has one of the lowest rate of recidivism among offenders at only 29.2 percent

United States

Two studies were done to attempt to provide a “national” recidivism rate for the U.S. One was done in 1983 which included 108,580 State prisoners from 11 different states. The other study was done in 1994 on 272,111 prisoners from 15 states. Both studies represent two-thirds of the overall prisoners released in their corresponding years.

This is an image which portrays the percent of parolees returning to prison in each state in 2006. This study was done by Matt Kelley. According to this study, in 2006, there was more recidivism in the southern states, particularly in the Midwestern region. However, for the majority, the data is spread out throughout the regions.


It has been suggested that for many decades, correctional observers did not give priority to the reality that offenders who reenter society face a varied assortment of daunting challenges that predictably lead to high recidivism rates. Various researchers also noted that prisoners are stripped of civil rights and are reluctantly absorbed into communities which leads to their further alienation and isolation. A final factor when looking at the causes of recidivism is the difficulty of a released offender when faced with finding a job, renting an apartment or getting an education. Owners of business will often refuse to hire a convicted felon, and are at best hesitant, especially in any position that entails even minor responsibility or the handling of money (note that this includes most work), especially to those convicted of thievery, such as larceny
Larceny is a crime involving the wrongful acquisition of the personal property of another person. It was an offence under the common law of England and became an offence in jurisdictions which incorporated the common law of England into their own law. It has been abolished in England and Wales,...

, or drug addicts. Many leasing corporations (those organisations and/or people who own and rent apartments) now routinely perform criminal background checks and disqualify ex-convicts (although many apartments, especially in the inner city
Inner city
The inner city is the central area of a major city or metropolis. In the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland, the term is often applied to the lower-income residential districts in the city centre and nearby areas...

 or in areas with high crime rates, even if having such an official policy, do not follow it, or it leads to a situation where apartments are held in the name of a someone other than the occupant without a felony record). People with criminal records report difficulty or the inability to find educational opportunities, and are often denied financial aid based on their records. In America, those found guilty of even a minor misdemeanor (in some states, a citation offense, such as a traffic ticket) or misdemeanour drug offence (for example, simple possession
Drug possession
Drug possession is the crime of having one or more illegal drugs in one's possession, either for personal use, distribution, sale or otherwise. Illegal drugs fall into different categories and sentences vary depending on the amount, type of drug, circumstances, and jurisdiction.A person has...

 of marijuana or heroin, respectively) are disqualified from receiving all government-funded educational loans and financial aid.

See also

  • Psychopathy
    Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime...

  • Habitual Offender
    Habitual Offender
    A habitual offender is a person who has repeatedly committed the same crime. Various state and jurisdictions may have laws targeting habitual offenders, and specifically providing for enhanced or exemplary punishments or other sanctions...

  • Serial Killer
    Serial killer
    A serial killer, as typically defined, is an individual who has murdered three or more people over a period of more than a month, with down time between the murders, and whose motivation for killing is usually based on psychological gratification...

  • Incarceration
    Incarceration is the detention of a person in prison, typically as punishment for a crime .People are most commonly incarcerated upon suspicion or conviction of committing a crime, and different jurisdictions have differing laws governing the function of incarceration within a larger system of...

  • Incapacitation (penology)
    Incapacitation (penology)
    Incapacitation in the context of sentencing philosophy refers to the effect of a sentence in terms of positively preventing future offending....

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.