|84 Percent of Young State Offenders Recidivate - New Federal Report|
|By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.|
There are few who read everything in federal crime reports, but those who do often find some interesting observations.
This report is no exception. It examines federal recidivism while adding some state numbers for comparison purposes.
The premise is that younger offenders recidivate (return to the criminal justice system) in higher numbers than older offenders. Research shows that the younger than 30 age group had the highest rearrest rate (64.8%) and the rate declined with each age group that follows to a low of 16.4 percent.
While this is no surprise, the report provides a variety of unique findings that go beyond an examination of age.
Federal offenders have substantially lower rates of recidivism than state offenders, see Crime in America-Federal/State Recidivism.
This report follows offenders for eight years, but the authors occasionally use five-year comparisons that mimic previous state recidivism reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
For an overview of all major federal and state recidivism reports, see Crime in America-Recidivism.
Overall Recidivism: For offenders age 24 or younger at the time of release, 63.2 percent of federal prisoners were rearrested within fiveyears compared to over four-fifths (84.1%) of state prisoners. To my knowledge, 84 percent is the largest percentage of recidivism ever recorded in federal publications without including criminal history. I have seen slightly higher rates of recidivism for state reports without age categories. Higher rates for criminal histories are below.
Highest Percent for Older Offenders: For offenders in Criminal History Category VI (serious criminal history), the rearrest rate ranged from 89.7 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 37.7 percent for offenders age 60 or older. To my knowledge, 38 percent is the highest percentage of recidivism for offenders over the age of sixty ever recorded.
College Graduates and Recidivism: Among offenders under age 30 at the time of release, college graduates had a substantially lower rearrest rate (27.0%) than offenders who did not complete high school (74.4%). To my knowledge, this is the first federal report indicating asubstantial decrease in recidivism based on education or graduating from college.
Firearms Offenders: Firearms offenders had a substantially higher rearrest rate across all age categories than drug trafficking offenders, who in turn had a higher rearrest rate across all age categories than fraud offenders. For example, for offenders under age 30 at the time of release, the rearrest rates was 79.3 percent.
Time to Arrest: Offenders who were younger than 30 when they were released had the shortest median time to rearrest (17 months). Conversely, the oldest offenders in the study, those 60 years and older, had the longest time to rearrest (28 months).
Reconviction: The reconviction rate is highest among offenders younger than 21 (48.5%) and those between the ages of 21 to 24 years old (48.4%) and declined in each subsequent age group.
Reincarceration: The reincarceration rate was highest among those between the ages of 21 to 24 years old (38.6%) and declined in each subsequent age group.
Race: White offenders had the lowest rearrest rate overall, starting with 59.1 percent for the youngest age group and declining to a low of 15.7 percent in the 60 years or older age cohort. Black offenders had the highest rearrest rate overall, starting with 72.7 percent in the youngest age cohort, which is the highest recidivism rate among all age categories.
Sex: Male offenders had a higher rearrest rate than female offenders in every age category. In the younger than 30 age cohort, men had a 69.5 percent rearrest rate compared to 47.6 percent for women.
Robbery Offenders: Robbery offenders, unlike all other offense types, did not experience a continuous decline in rearrest rates as they aged. Instead, rearrest rates increased from the younger than 30 age cohort (66.2%) to the 40 to 49 age cohort (71.5%) before experiencing a sharp decline.
Summary of the US Sentencing Commission Report (lightly edited for readability and emphasis)
This report is the fourth in this series and focuses on the relationship between age at release and recidivism. This report examines the impact of the aging process on federal offender recidivism and, once age is accounted for, the impact of other offense and offender characteristics.
The Commission selected a follow-up period of eight years. It considered all recidivism events (including felonies, misdemeanors, and “technical” violations of the conditions of supervision), except minor traffic offenses, which occurred over that eight-year period. While this report includes summary findings using all three measures (rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration), it primarily relies on rearrest data in providing more detailed information about the recidivism of federal offenders.
To the extent that the rearrest event is an accurate indicator of relapse into criminal behavior, excluding non-conviction or non-incarceration events will result in underestimation of recidivism. Even using the least restrictive measure, rearrest, does not count the full extent of offender recidivism, as many crimes go unreported to police or, if reported, do not result in an arrest.
At every age group, federal prisoners had a substantially lower recidivism rate than state prisoners who also were released in 2005 and tracked by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. For example, for offenders age 24 or younger at the time of release, 63.2 percent of federal prisoners were rearrested within five years compared to over four-fifths (84.1%) of state prisoners. Like federal prisoners, older state prisoners were less likely to recidivate than younger state prisoners
The key findings of the Commission’s study of federal offenders’ recidivism by age at release are that:
Older offenders were substantially less likely than younger offenders to recidivate following release. Over an eight-year follow-up period, 13.4 percent of offenders age 65 or older at the time of release were rearrested compared to 67.6 percent of offenders younger than age 21 at the time of release. The pattern was consistent across age groupings, and recidivism measured by rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration declined as age increased.
For federal offenders under age 30 at the time of release, over one-fourth (26.6%) who recidivated had assault as their most common new charge. By comparison, for offenders 60 years old or older at the time of release, almost one quarter (23.7%) who recidivated had a public order offense as their most serious new charge.
Age and criminal history exerted a strong influence on recidivism. For offenders in Criminal History Category I, (minor criminal histories) the rearrest rate ranged from 53.0 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 11.3 percent for offenders age 60 or older. For offenders in Criminal History Category VI (major criminal histories), the rearrest rate ranged from 89.7 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 37.7 percent for offenders age 60 or older.
Education level influenced recidivism across almost all categories. For example, among offenders under age 30 at the time of release, college graduates had a substantially lower rearrest rate (27.0%) than offenders who did not complete high school (74.4%). Similarly, among offenders age 60 or older at the time of release, college graduates had a somewhat lower rearrest rate (11.6%) than offenders who did not complete high school (17.2%).
Age exerted a strong influence on recidivism across all sentence length categories. Older offenders were less likely to recidivate after release than younger offenders who had served similar sentences, regardless of the length of sentence imposed. In addition, for younger offenders there was some association between the length of the original federal sentence and the rearrest rates, as younger offenders with sentences of up to six months generally had lower rearrest rates than younger offenders with longer sentences. However, among all offenders sentenced to one year or more of imprisonment, there was no clear association between the length of sentence and the rearrest rate.
For certain major offense types, the type of federal offense that offenders had committed also had an effect on recidivism across age groups. For example, firearms offenders had a substantially higher rearrest rate across all age categories than drug trafficking offenders, who in turn had a higher rearrest rate across all age categories than fraud offenders.
For example, for offenders under age 30 at the time of release, the rearrest rates were 79.3 percent (firearms), 62.5 percent (drug trafficking), and 53.6 percent (fraud). Similarly, for offenders age 60 and older at the time of release, the rearrest rates were 30.2 percent (firearms), 17.5 percent (drug trafficking), and 12.5 percent (fraud).
US Sentencing Commission
Reprinted with permission from http://www.crimeinamerica.net.
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Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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