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May 5, 2022

Important new report explores "The Limits of Recidivism: Measuring Success After Prison"

26459-0309276977-450The quoted portion of this post is the title of this important new report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  Here is an account of this report from the NAS website:

Nearly 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons annually. Whether these individuals will successfully reintegrate into their communities has been identified as a critical measure of the effectiveness of the criminal legal system.  However, evaluating the successful reentry of individuals released from prison is a challenging process, particularly given limitations of currently available data and the complex set of factors that shape reentry experiences.

The Limits of Recidivism: Measuring Success After Prison finds that the current measures of success for individuals released from prison are inadequate.  The use of recidivism rates to evaluate post-release success ignores significant research on how and why individuals cease to commit crimes, as well as the important role of structural factors in shaping post-release outcomes.  The emphasis on recidivism as the primary metric to evaluate post-release success also ignores progress in other domains essential to the success of individuals returning to communities, including education, health, family, and employment.

In addition, the report highlights the unique and essential insights held by those who have experienced incarceration and proposes that the development and implementation of new measures of post-release success would significantly benefit from active engagement with individuals with this lived experience.  Despite significant challenges, the report outlines numerous opportunities to improve the measurement of success among individuals released from prison and the report’s recommendations, if implemented, will contribute to policies that increase the health, safety, and security of formerly incarcerated persons and the communities to which they return.

The full report runs a full 200 pages, and this three-page pdf provides highlights.  And this press release also provides this additional overview and more summary details, and here is an excerpt:

Recidivism is an inadequate measurement of success after release from prison, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report recommends researchers develop supplementary measures that evaluate success across multiple areas of a person’s life after prison — including employment, housing, health, social support, and personal well-being — and that measure interactions with the criminal justice system with more nuance. Federal efforts should be directed to developing national standards for recidivism data and new measurements....

“Our report draws on the expertise of individuals who have experienced reentry, those who work in corrections and reentry services, as well as victims’ advocates and many other communities — and it’s clear that it’s time we recognize the numerous shortcomings of relying exclusively on recidivism data,” said Richard Rosenfeld, Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “Better measures could open many doors for better decision-making and policy.”...

Recidivism is also limited in that it is a binary measure, says the report. Decades of research have shown that ceasing criminal activity is a process and may involve setbacks. Recidivism rates fail to capture indicators of progress toward the cessation of criminal activity, such as reductions in the seriousness of criminal activity or increases in time between release and a criminal event. Researchers should supplement recidivism rates with these measures of moving away from crime, the report says.

The report recommends the development of new measures of post-release success that take into account a number of factors in people’s lives after incarceration, including personal well-being, education, employment, housing, family and social supports, health, civic and community engagement, and legal involvement.  In particular, significant efforts — including by federal agencies — should be directed to developing national standards for measuring post-release success.  Creating national standards could make data easier to compare across programs and jurisdictions. Creating a website that contains core measures and data collection instruments could hasten development of these standards, the report says.

Federal agencies, including the National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and National Institutes of Health, should convene research panels to assess new measures of post-release success.  These agencies should also solicit grant proposals from researchers and practitioners who work collaboratively with formerly incarcerated people to review new measures.

Researchers should also develop new ways to measure barriers to and facilitators of post-release success, which could help improve understanding of how to best serve those released from prison. Individuals released from prison face a number of significant barriers, such as returning to communities without adequate employment opportunities, or lacking access to mental health counseling, among others — and better measures could enhance our understanding of which community and policy factors make post-release success more or less likely.

May 5, 2022 at 06:17 PM | Permalink


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