Recidivism Versus Redemption: Risk of Re-Arrest Falls Over Time, To Less Than in Overall General Population

Obviously, risk of rearrest is a huge issue in terms of the steps that are considered appropriate to keep those with criminal records integrated into society.  NTY has a piece on the relative lack of rationality of many of the employment barriers and on legal attempts to reduce discrimination against those with records.

The article describes a study (link to NIJ Journal article) on rearrest rates as follows:

But several new studies by criminologists are beginning to turn that assumption on its head, providing a far more encouraging picture of actual risks posed to employers by those whose crimes lie well in the past. Called “redemption research,” the studies find that the risk that an ex-offender will be re-arrested decreases substantially over time, eventually becoming indistinguishable from that of someone of the same age with no record.

The NIJ Journal article described the findings with respect to what it called the “hazard rate,” or risk of rearrest, as follows:

In the above figure, we show the hazard rate for 18-year-olds when they were arrested for a first offense of one of three crimes: robbery, burglary and aggravated assault. The figure shows that for robbery, the hazard rate declined to the same arrest rate for the general population of same aged individuals at age 25.7, or 7.7 years after the 1980 robbery arrest. After that point, the probability that individuals would commit another crime was less than the probability of other 26-year-olds in the general population.
The figure also shows our analysis for burglary and aggravated assault. The hazard rates of people who committed burglary at age 18 declined to the same as the general population somewhat earlier: 3.8 years post-arrest at age 21.8. For aggravated assault, the hazard rates of our study group and the general population of same-aged individuals occurred 4.3 years post-arrest or at age 22.3.
Individuals who were arrested for robbery at age 18 had to stay clean longer than those who were arrested for burglary or aggravated assault to reach the same arrest rate as same-aged people in the general population.

The study looked at 1980 arrests.  It occurred to me that maybe some of the lack of rearrest was because the perpectrators were in prison.  I checked with Professor Blumstein one of the authors (see below) and he told me that this was a minor effect, partly because only 14% were incarcerated, and that the effect diminished over time to the overall level.

The authors of the study are ALFRED BLUMSTEIN and KIMINORI NAKAMURA of Carnegie Mellon, and the study itself is in Volume 47 of Criminology,  published in 2009.

This work is worthy of more attention than it has received.  Lets hope it makes it easier to reduce the stigma of criminal records, and easier to get records expunged.  By the way, expungment is one of the areas in which self-help services (Hennepin example) are proving very effective. 


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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