PENNSYLVANIA — Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) Acting Secretary George Little announced the recent release of the 2022 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Recidivism Report, published by the DOC’s Bureau of Planning, Research and Statistics.
Recidivism refers to the re-arrest or re-incarceration of individuals who have previously been incarcerated. The report released today examines many aspects of recidivism at the state level broken down by demographics, crime types, and geographic areas within Pennsylvania. It also includes information about the impact of various programs and policies intended to reduce recidivism.
“Recidivism is a key performance indicator for the DOC because our mission is to reduce criminal behavior in the commonwealth,” said Acting Secretary Little. “This report is full of actionable information to guide decisions of not only department leadership, but also lawmakers and other stakeholders who are working toward the same goal.”
The report finds that the recidivism rate – as traditionally defined – in Pennsylvania remains steady, with little change over at least the past 15 years. Approximately two-thirds of reentrants released from a DOC facility are either re-arrested or return to DOC custody within three years of release. Recidivism is expensive, costing taxpayers approximately $3.1 billion each year. Even a 5% reduction in recidivism would save the DOC an estimated $1.9 million per year.
The DOC updates its recidivism rate annually, but the 2022 Recidivism Report is the first comprehensive examination of the topic since 2013. The new report introduces a metric called desistance, which measures success after incarceration rather than failure. It is a concept gaining ground in academic circles, and a recent national report points to limitations of recidivism as a stand-alone metric used by correctional agencies.
“Looking at recidivism only in terms of re-arrest or re-incarceration is like measuring school performance solely by the drop-out rate,” said Dr. Bret Bucklen, director of the DOC’s Bureau of Planning, Research and Statistics. “Rehabilitation is not always a straight line, and researchers are beginning to acknowledge the benefits of incremental progress.”
The 2022 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Recidivism Report includes data on three measures of desistance from crime: deceleration (slowing the rate of offending), de-escalation (reducing the seriousness of offenses), and cessation (the stopping of offending altogether). The report finds that nine out of 10 DOC reentrants meet one or more of these measures after release from prison.
Additionally, in response to critiques that traditional measures inflate the recidivism rate through over-representation of high-risk, repeat offenders, the report also examines the data in a way that corrects for the disproportionate impact of a relatively small number of repeat recidivists. Using the adjusted figures, the DOC’s three-year recidivism rate drops from approximately two-thirds to about 50%.
“Reducing recidivism, preventing criminal activity, and keeping people out of prison are objectives that everyone can agree on,” said Acting Secretary Little. “The DOC is publishing this report in the interest of transparency and collaboration, as we work toward building safer communities.”
Download the 2022 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Recidivism Report.
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