Tagged: recidivism

New York’s bail reform law and recidivism

In recent years, many states throughout the nation have taken steps to reduce or eliminate the use of monetary bail. According to proponents, the purpose of bail “reform” is to reduce jail populations and decrease income disparities regarding how bail is applied. However, critics believe that such laws would negatively impact public safety due to more defendants committing crimes while on pretrial release. Further, there also concerns that reforms could increase failure-to-appear rates.

One state where bail reform has received considerable attention is New York. Statewide reforms first took effect on January 1, 2020, though it was later amended in April 2020 and May 2022. Currently, there isn’t a ton of research examining whether bail reform contributed to crime, but more research is starting to trickle out on this topic. There seems to be a lot of variaiton regarding the findings though. One of the more recent reports on this topic was published earlier this month by the Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ), which claimed that bail reform decreased recidivism among pretrial releases in New York City. However, this is inconsistent with a previous study from last year, also conducted in New York City, which found the opposite: bail reform efforts significantly increased recidivism. Thus, it’s important to read these studies very carefully to determine which ones are the most relevant and helpful. In this post, I will review the latest report released by the DCJ and provide my thoughts regarding its validity.

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A commentary on CCJ’s recommendations for sentencing reform

In Spring 2022, the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ) launched a Task Force on Long Sentences with the aim of assessing our nation’s use of long prison terms (i.e., 10+ years) and the impact on public safety and justice. Most recently, the Task Force released a report detailing their 14 recommendations about how to reduce mass incarceration without negatively impacting public safety.

The recommendations are questionable, though, as they seem overly optimistic about the state of the research. For example, they propose various alternatives to incarceration that are supposedly effective, though they make the research sound much more conclusive than it actually is. Perhaps they ought to be reminded of the old adage: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” In this post, I will highlight some of the more controversial “recommendations” and provide some points for consideration. In a future post, I will critically assess each recommendation in more detail and provide additional points for consideration.

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The problem with reducing reliance on incarceration: A commentary on Vera’s “new paradigm” on sentencing

The United States should move away from incarceration and ultimately work toward a system that creates “real safety,” according to a new, widely circulated report from the Vera Institute of Justice. In the report, the authors claim that severe sentences do not deter crime nor help survivors of crime heal, and therefore are not achieving their intended purpose. However, the argument seems to be rooted in emotion rather than facts. The research actually presents a more nuanced picture.

The controversy regarding incarceration is not new, and has remained a major topic of debate in recent years. Clearly, there are many different opinions regarding the utility of incarceration and its effectiveness, many of which are emotionally-driven and not rooted in facts. Rather, the research on incarceration presents a very nuanced picture. It is simply naive to think that any one policy would be 100% effective or 0% effective, and these types of “all-or-nothing” arguments are often rooted in emotion rather than facts.

In this post, I’ll give an overview of the lengthy report’s executive summary and give my thoughts regarding their key points. Stay tuned for part two of this post, where I will perform a deeper assessment of the report in its entirety.

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Sentence length and recidivism: An updated review of the research

Back in May 2021, we released a comprehensive research review examining the literature on the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism. To date, this paper is the most comprehensive literature review on the topic. Over the last several months though, we have made some important updates and revisions. The updated version is now available via the Social Science Research Network.

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Firearms offenders recidivate at higher rates, and progressive prosecutors don’t care

A new article by Thomas Hogan of the Manhattan Institute discusses some of the recent data on crime trends presented by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC). One important point brought up in that piece concerns the recidivism of federal firearms offenders. Federal firearms offenders are usually convicted of being felons-in-possession of firearms, or they are convicted of carrying a firearm related to another crime such as drug trafficking or robbery. Per the USSC’s 2021 annual report, firearms offenders recidivate at a higher rate than all other offenders, with almost 70 percent being re-arrested within eight years of release. A complementary USSC report discusses these findings in more detail, noting that recidivism rates for firearms offender were consistently higher than non-firearms offenders regardless of age and criminal history.

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Lengthier sentences lead to recidivism reductions: New Sentencing Commission report

Yesterday the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published their seventh study in their recidivism series. This study examined the relationship between length of incarceration and recidivism and serves as an update to a prior USSC report published in 2020. Both studies were conducted by Ryan Cotter and are part of a larger multi-year recidivism series of more than 32,000 federal offenders. The older study examined federal offenders released in 2005, and the newer study replicated the analysis but with a cohort released in 2010. Recidivism was measured by re-arrest within eight years post-release. Results of both studies were almost identical, revealing that lengthier sentences were associated with decreased recidivism rates.  UPDATE:   CJLF researcher was interviewed on this subject on LA’s John & Ken Show at this link. Continue reading . . .

Recidivism after drug treatment programs: New Sentencing Commission report

On May 17, 2022, the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published new findings on eight-year recidivism rates of 25,142 federal offenders after their participation in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) treatment programs. The report is part of a larger multi-year recidivism study of more than 32,000 federal offenders released in 2010. The programs reduced overall recidivism for people who completed programs relative to eligible non-participants. Despite this, drug-related recidivism was still higher among program completers. The latter finding is perplexing considering that one major goal of the treatment programs was to reduce substance use.

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Recidivism and measuring success after prison

In the United States, recidivism rates are the primary measure to evaluate the success of correctional and re-entry programs. Recidivism estimates can be controversial though, particularly given limitations of currently available data. A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) highlights some of these challenges. A more controversial part of the report argues that the effectiveness of correctional and re-entry programs can be better understood by looking at things like education and employment outcomes rather than focusing on recidivism specifically. Unfortunately, focusing solely on the latter does not tell the whole story, and does not accurately reflect whether a particular program is successful or not.

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Flawed study oversells the benefits of Prop 47

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) presents some information on the impacts of Proposition 47 (Prop 47), calling it a “lifeline to California communities.” The report’s main conclusion is that Prop 47 is a success because it reduced prison costs without negatively impacting recidivism. The author contends that recidivism rates, homelessness, and unemployment all decreased after participating in Prop 47 programs, citing some data to support this conclusion. But a deeper dive into the source of these numbers proves quite skeptical, and whether or not these programs are actually effective remains unclear.

Further, the report also claims that Prop 47 has coincided with a period of record-low crime in California. Unfortunately, this statement is incredibly misleading. While overall crime rates might be down, this is largely driven by decreases in property crime, while some violent crimes (like murder) have been considerably high in recent years.

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Violent offenders recidivate at higher rates despite age, criminal history

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) published new findings last week regarding the recidivism of federal offenders, finding that violent offenders recidivate at higher rates than their non-violent counterparts. The study used USSC data coupled with FBI criminal history records to examine eight-year recidivism rates for 13,883 federal offenders released in 2010. This study is part of a larger recidivism study that includes more than 32,000 federal offenders.

These findings support the longstanding idea that violent offenders are more likely to recidivate than non-violent offenders. While recidivism rates tended to decline with age, they were still consistently higher for violent offenders across all age groups. This was seen even in the oldest age category where most individuals are presumed to have “aged out of crime” (60+ years). Even among those 60 years and older, one quarter of violent offenders were rearrested within eight years.

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