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US Report: Recidivism and the Revolving Door in American Prisons

14th April 2011

A new study by the Pew Center on the States found that more than four in ten offenders in the US return to state prison within three years of their release despite a massive increase in state spending on prisons. States are currently spending more than $50 billion a year on corrections, yet recidivism rates remain high. As the slumping economy forces states to do more with less, policy makers are looking for a better public safety return on their corrections dollars.

The key findings from the report are:

  • More than four in 10 offenders returned to state prison within three years of their release
  • Recidivism rates vary widely between each state, and there are a number of potential explanations for the differences
  • A 10% reduction in recidivism could save more than $635 million combined in one year alone in averted prison costs. In fact, if just the 10 states with the greatest potential cost savings reduced their recidivism rates by 10 percent, they could save more than $470 million in a single year.
  • During the past 10 years, the 19 states that cut their imprisonment rates also experienced a decline in crime rates. Michigan, Missouri and Oregon are highlighted as employing successful strategies for reducing reoffending costs. The largest reductions in recidivism are realized when evidence-based programs and practices are implemented in prisons and govern the supervision of probationers and parolees in the community post-release.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and non-profit organisation that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. 

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