The Department of Justice released its largest-ever study of recidivism rates across state lines today.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report (PDF) examines the criminal history and recidivism rates for prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states—representing, the study says, about 75 percent of all released prisoners that year. Of those, 11 percent were rearrested in another state within five years. For rearrest in any state, that number was 77 percent.

Data came from FBI and state criminal history records. An estimated 5.5 million arrests were made which involved the 404,638 prisoners studied over the five year period. Arrests included arrests from federal, state, local and territorial law enforcement, and each unique arrest was counted rather than individual charges which resulted, the authors note. “In state” refers to arrests made in the same state that had released the person from prison, regardless of the person’s residency.

Findings include:

• Looking across state lines gave a fuller picture: The recidivism rate across five years was 72 percent when examining only in-state arrests, but 77 percent across all 30 states in the study.

• Those on parole, probation or another form of conditional release were more likely to be arrested within the releasing state than those granted unconditional release. However, they had the same overall rearrest rate.

• A quarter of the former prisoners had at least one prior arrest from another state before they served their time, though the BJS notes that info on prior out-of-state arrests was unavailable from 75 percent of those ex-prisoners who were studied.

• People who had out-of-state arrests prior to their incarceration were more likely to be rearrested in another state than people with no out-of-state arrest history. Six percent of those with no prior out-of-state arrest history were rearrested out of state; 34 percent of those who had previously been arrested in another state at least four times had out-of-state rearrests after their release.

• The number of out-of-state rearrests varied widely according to the state of release. People released from prison in Nevada, Nebraska, North Dakota and West Virginia had some of the highest rates of out-of-state rearrests; the lowest rates were in California, Washington, Georgia and Hawaii.

The study is the third in 32 years from the BJS that examines recidivism in multiple states. Prior studies were conducted in 1983, examining prisoners from 11 states, and 1994, examining prisoners from 15 states. The BJS says these studies are the closest it has come to examining national recidivism rates.

Adam Lee Nemann
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Trial and Defense Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University, founder of Nemann Law Offices
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