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Recidivism Revisited

Recidivism Revisited

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Published by Matt Driscoll

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Published by: Matt Driscoll on Sep 06, 2012
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Washington State Department of Corrections
Principle Author
Michael Evans
, DOC Senior Research Manager
Washington Department of Corrections Support Staff 
Teri Herold-Prayer, Research ManagerSusan Owley
Koenig, Research Analyst Emily Yette, Research Analyst Ilyne Lawson, Management Analyst 
Sharon Semegen, Management Analyst 
August 2010
The Department of Corrections (DOC) has adopted the Washington State Institute for Public Policy(WSIPP) definition of recidivism:
any felony offense committed by an offender within 36-months of being at-risk in thecommunity which results in a Washington State conviction.
 This was done in an effort to accurately compare recidivism rates to other states and organizations, toevaluate current prison programs, and to improve planning efforts. Recidivism rates for Washingtonoffenders peaked for those released in 2003 at 34.8 percent, and have since declined to 31.1 percent forthose released in 2006. Recidivism rates are impacted by re-offense behavior, risk level, law changesand measure of recidivism selected (i.e., programs, sentencing, amount of supervision after release,etc.). DOC recidivism rates do not currently include jail data; hence recidivism rates are actually higherthan those presented. DOC recently started collecting jail data through a joint effort with theWashington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and plan to add jail recidivism to prisondata in the future. Jail data will enhance future correction research, and further the comparison of Washington state recidivism rates to other states recidivism rates across the county.
Recidivism Revisited
What is recidivism? The response depends on which organization you ask. The lack of a commondefinition makes it difficult to compare recidivism rates between different organizations and states.A
ccording to the Webster Dictionary, “
recidivism is a tendency to slip back into a previous criminal
behavior pattern.”
In the past, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has defined recidivism as,
“a return
to a DOC facility within five years as a result of a new conviction or parole violation by an offender, who
either had been paroled or been discharged from such a facility (See Table 1a).”
Table 1a: Old Method (AND as reported in Re-entry Focused Government ManagementAccountability and Performance (GMAP) 11/2006)
Year Since Release
1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Year 1 10.9 8.9 8.8 8.8 9.3 9.8 9.7 9.1 10.1 10.8Year 2 8.9 9.4 9.8 9.0 9.1 10.4 9.2 10.3 11.2 11.5Year 3 5.3 6.0 6.1 6.1 6.2 6.2 6.5 6.4 6.9 6.6Year 4 3.5 4.6 3.8 3.9 4.0 4.3 4.2 4.6 4.5 4.9Year 5 2.8 3.1 2.8 3.1 2.9 3.1 3.0 2.9 2.3 3.2Total 5-Year 31.4 32.0 31.3 30.9 31.5 33.8 32.6 33.3 35.0 37.0The drawback with this definition is the inability to compare data with states and organizations thatdefine recidivism differently. As a result, DOC adopted the Washington State Institute for Public Policy(WSIPP) definition in an effort to accurately compare recidivism rates to other states and organizations,to evaluate current prison programs, and to improve planning efforts.DOC recently updated its recidivism numbers (See Table 1b and Figure 1) using the WSIPP definition,
“any felony offense committed by an offender within 36
-months of being at-risk in the community

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