StateStats: The Cycle of Recidivism: October/November 2011

By the Numbers

Total annual state spending on corrections, mostly on prison costs.

The rate at which the nation’s prison population grew between 1973 and 2009, resulting in more than one in 100 adults behind bars.

The average cost per day to keep an inmate in prison.

The average cost per day to supervise an offender on parole.

The average cost per day to supervise an offender on probation.

What the country would save in prison costs a year if every state reduced their recidivism rate by 10 percent.


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More than 40 percent of offenders return to prison within three years of getting out, either for committing new crimes or violating the terms of their release, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States, “State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons.”

The recidivism rate has remained relatively stable for the country as a whole between 1999 and 2004. Rates in Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon and Utah, however, decreased by more than 10 percent (Oregon by almost 32 percent), while rates in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina increased by more than 10 percent (South Dakota and Washington by more than 30 percent).

Differences in rates vary widely from state to state and are a result of policy choices that affect which offenders are sentenced to prison, how inmates are selected for release, and what happens when offenders break the rules of parole. States also vary in how they track recidivism, making state-to-state comparisons difficult. Policymakers can benefit most from analysis of how rates within their state change over time.