That’s one of the most important questions any sensible person would ask in considering whether criminals are sentenced too harshly, or (relatedly) whether their existing sentences should be shortened by mass clemency or other expedients such as First Step Act re-sentencing. After all, we should be guided by “facts” and “data,” not emotion, right? Emotion is, after all, the province of revenge-driven right-wing kooks, while reliance on criminal justice “data” is the specialty of the more tempered among us.
Well OK then, let’s look at the data. What do they tell us?
In brief, they tell us that, in overwhelming numbers, after they’re released, criminals get back in the crime business. Most of them return fast, and over time, close to all of them return to harming us, our property, and our right to live in peace and safety.