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Following Incarceration, Most Released Offenders Never Return to Prison

William Rhodes, Gerald Gaes, Jeremy Luallen, Ryan Kling,Tom Rich, Michael Shively


October 3, 2014
Recent studies suggest that 50% of offenders released from state prisons return to prison within 3 to 5 years. In contrast, this article shows that roughly two of every three offenders who enter and exit prison will never return to prison. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ newly revised National Corrections Reporting Program, we examine prison admissions and releases over a 13-year period in 17 states and over shorter periods in other states to determine the rate at which individual offenders return to prison. We distinguish between the traditional event-based sampling methods for studying recidivism and our alternative offender-based method, explaining how each is useful but how the two approaches answer different policy questions.

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