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March 9, 2017

US Sentencing Commission releases another big recidivism report on federal offenders

The United States Sentencing Commission is continuing to publish important new data report about the recidivism rates and patterns of federal offenders.  This latest 44-page report is titled "The Past Predicts the Future: Criminal History and Recidivism of Federal Offenders."  This page on the USSC's website provides this summary and highlights:

The Past Predicts the Future: Criminal History and Recidivism of Federal Offenders examines a group of 25,431 federal offenders who were released from prison or placed on probation in calendar year 2005.  Information about the components of Chapter Four of the Guidelines Manual — including total criminal history score, criminal history category, and point assignments for types of past convictions — and their association with recidivism are contained in this report. The findings included in this report build on those in the Commission’s 2016 Recidivism Overview report.

Report Highlights

  • Consistent with its previous work in this area, the Commission found that recidivism rates are closely correlated with total criminal history points and resulting Criminal History Category classification, as offenders with lower criminal history scores have lower recidivism rates than offenders with higher criminal history scores.

  • The Commission found substantial differences in recidivism rates among Criminal History Category I offenders (which includes offenders with a criminal history score of zero or one point).  Less than one-third (30.2%) of Criminal History Category I offenders with zero points were rearrested while nearly half (46.9%) of offenders with one point were rearrested.

  • The Commission also found differences in recidivism rates among offenders with zero criminal history points. Offenders with zero points and no prior contact with the criminal justice system have a lower recidivism rate (25.7%) than offenders with zero points but some prior contact with the criminal justice system (37.4%).

  • Offenders who have less serious prior convictions (assigned one point) have a lower recidivism rate (53.4%) than offenders who have prior convictions assigned two or three points (71.3% for offenders with at least one two-point offense and 70.5% for offenders with at least one three-point offense).

March 9, 2017 at 09:58 AM | Permalink


The Commission is correct that the past predicts the future. It used a shadow of reality, the arrest recidivism rate to reflect the crime rate. It should obtain a certificate of absolute immunity and interview a random sample of defendants to improve its method.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 9, 2017 4:36:39 PM

Interesting, but not surprising to anyone in the field, that child pornography convicts had the second lowest rearrest rate of any of the offense categories (second only to economic crimes). And of course, that's rearrest rate generally, not rearrest rate for a sexual crime. This is telling: "Offenders convicted of child pornography offenses were most often rearrested for a public order offense as their most serious crime." As many if not most of these offenders are on registries and face a host of easy-to-violate (and senseless) restrictions, it wouldn't surprise me that they would have so-called "public order" offenses as a common occurrence.

Posted by: Larry | Mar 10, 2017 12:54:25 AM

Good point Larry. So many ways for sex offenders to get tripped up, it's surprising their "arrest" recidivism rate, if not conviction, or conviction of serious crime recidivism rate isn't higher. Such a pile of crap.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Mar 10, 2017 8:30:50 PM

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