Back to top


"Performance measurement—establishing metrics for success and assessing results—is a crucial first step in making informed decisions in all areas of government, including criminal justice policy. Understanding the outcomes of funding and policy decisions is critical to improving government performance and providing the best return on taxpayer investments … Recidivism, the most commonly used definition of correctional success, is one example of a performance measure that many states use. Broadly defined as reengaging in criminal behavior after receiving a sanction or intervention, recidivism is an important performance measure for justice agencies and should be at the heart of any effort to evaluate JRI outcomes. Unfortunately, recidivism is most frequently reported as a single, statewide rate, which is too imprecise to draw meaningful conclusions and insufficient for assessing the impact of changes to policy and practice" (p. 2). This brief shows how your agencies can use recidivism data to make better decisions beyond the system-level. The four steps explained are: definition—use multiple measures of success; collection—develop protocols to ensure data are consistent, accurate, and timely; analysis—account for the underlying composition of the population; and dissemination—package the findings to maximize impact and get the results into the hands of decision-makers.

Improving Recidivism as a Performance Measure Cover

"To understand to what extent states currently track recidivism data for youth involved in the juvenile justice system and use that information to inform policy and funding decisions, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project, and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators surveyed juvenile correctional agencies in all 50 states. This issue brief highlights the key findings of the survey and provides state and local policymakers with five recommendations for improving their approach to the measurement, analysis, collection, reporting, and use of recidivism data for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. In addition, examples are provided of how select states have translated these recommendations into policy and practice" (p. 1).

Measuring and Using Juvenile Recidivism Data to Inform Policy, Practice, and Resource Allocation Cover

"Reducing recidivism is a key indicator of success for juvenile corrections agencies." This interactive map is an excellent resource for finding out about juvenile offender recidivism across the United States. Information provided for each responding state shows its definition of recidivism (measure(s) of reoffending, length of follow up, and whether offenders are followed in to the criminal justice system), how performance (recidivism) is measured (compare to previous year release cohorts, and compare rates by offender risk), reporting (frequency of reporting, and target audience), and the source of the state's data. One may get all the information provided in the interactive tool in one PDF table.

Measuring Juvenile Recidivism: Data Collection and Reporting Practices in Juvenile Corrections Cover

This report presents the results from a 2014 review of 13 states that provided recidivism research on their websites regarding youth who had been placed on probation. Sections cover: system structure limits research capabilities; reports describe a variety of populations; measures of re-offending impact recidivism rates; individual characteristics add context to analysis; and different tracking periods result in various recidivism rates. The table "Reported Measures of Subsequent Offending in Juveniles Adjudicated to Probation" shows data according to state, juvenile probation population, marker event)s) (i.e., re-arrest, referral, re-adjudication and/or conviction, return to supervision, and commitment and/or incarceration), and tracking details (i.e., maximum follow-up in months, and source of data source). "Careful attention to how youth fare during and after supervision will help policymakers, agency administrators, and probation chiefs make informed decisions that improve practices related to youth on probation" (p. 4).

Measuring Subsequent Offending in Juvenile Probation Cover

Mentoring as a Component of Reentry CoverAn integral part of the process also involves the understanding that mentoring should serve as a supplement to services that address other critical reentry needs, such as housing, health care, substance use treatment, and employment. Despite growing interest and investment in mentoring as a component of reentry, there is only a small body of research to support the value of mentoring services in reducing recidivism among criminal justice populations. The research related to adult reentry mentoring that does exist rarely addresses participants’ criminogenic risk levels and other factors that are known to be important in recidivism-reduction strategies. In the absence of research, reentry programs and corrections agencies are looking for guidance on how mentoring and correctional evidence-based practices (EBPs) can be integrated.

This publication from the National Reentry Resource Center offers five broad, field-based practical considerations for incorporating mentoring into reentry programs for adults. Although the primary audience for this publication is community-based reentry organizations that are incorporating adult mentoring into their portfolio of reentry services, corrections agencies, other organizations, and legislative officials may also find this publication useful for gaining a better understanding of the components of adult mentoring in reentry.


This report presents findings from a project in which researchers examined six mentoring programs in Ohio to better understand their impact on recidivism. Youth on parole and probation who received mentoring services were matched with similar youth who did not receive mentoring services. While some reductions in recidivism were found, the differences were not statistically significant. The study looked at six Ohio mentoring programs and their impact on youth recidivism. Research questions explored whether mentoring services were effective in reducing delinquent and criminal reoffending, whether the impact of mentoring services differed based on youth characteristics, the impact of match quality on youth outcomes, and the impact of mentoring program quality on youth outcomes.

“As ever-increasing numbers of offenders are supervised in the community — witness the massive “realignment” of prisoners in California — parole and probation departments must find the balance between dwindling dollars and the lowest possible risk to public safety. The good news is that researchers and officials in Philadelphia, Pa., believe they have developed a tool that helps find that balance” (p. 4). This article explains how your jurisdiction can use a random forest risk-forecasting tool. Sections of this article cover: what random forest modeling is; pre-random forest times; getting started; forecast begin- and end-points; determining an acceptable error rate; accuracy; the benefits of random forest modeling; resources, equity, and fairness; the role of ethics in statistical forecasting; the key—a strong partnership; and recommendations from the research.

Predicting Recidivism Risk: New Tool in Philadelphia Shows Great Promise Cover

This pilot study compared the recidivism risks of older, high-risk juvenile probationers exposed or unexposed to an experimental case-management intervention to further the development of a supportive community intervention. The experimental intervention targeted unmet basic needs before and after the exposed group aged out of the juvenile justice system to prevent transition to adult crime. A prospective-cohort design compared the recidivism risks of the intervention group (n = 29) with a randomly selected comparison group (n = 114) stratified by gender, race, and risks/needs. We followed both groups for 3 years after members turned 18. The results of this pilot study showed no effects on recidivism risks, but statistically significant effects on the timing to recidivism for the group exposed to an innovative intervention. The study also revealed that the intervention was able to recruit and maintain the probationers and members of their family for the duration of the intervention.

“This analysis tool allows users to calculate recidivism rates for persons released from state prisons. Recidivism rates may be generated for the entire sample of released prisoners or for released prisoners with specific demographic, criminal history, and sentence attributes.” The selected criteria used to generate tables and charts customized for your agency are age at release, sex, race, ethnicity, number of prior arrests, prior imprisonment, sentencing offense (homicide, rape, other sexual assault, robbery, assault, other violent crime, burglary, larceny (theft and motor vehicle), other property crime, drug possession, drug trafficking, DUI, and other public order crime); and time served (in months).

Prisoner Recidivism Analysis Tool Cover

The Prisons Division facilitates specialized training related to prison operations, conducts operational networks, coordinates technical assistance, as well as programs regarding leadership and management.

The Division also sponsors publications and materials on recent trends, the latest research and topics of interest to correctional practitioners, as well as participates in an interdisciplinary effort to assist jurisdictions in developing a more efficient, cost-effective, and coordinated system of correctional operations.

No-cost technical assistance related to prison operations is available in areas such as policy development, safety and security, emergency preparedness, staffing, and special management inmates. The Division also conducts conference workshops with emphasis on the following: Leadership and Management; Prison Management and Operations; Institutional Culture; Workforce; and Classification.

Correctional Program Specialist: Scott Richards


Subscribe to Recidivism