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BJS Study Tracks Recividism

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The Bureau of Justice Statistics has released a study tracking the rearrest rate of 405,000 felons released from prison in 30 states.  The BJS press release is here.  The study examines ex-convicts released in 2005 who were rearrested for a new crimes over the next five years.  More than 57% of those released were rearrested in the first year.   By the third year 68% had been rearrested.  After five years 77% had been rearrested at least one time, with many rearrested more than once.  In total, ex-convicts released from prison in 2005 were rearrested 1.2 million times for new crimes.   Property criminals, including burglars, car thieves, and identity thieves were rearrested at the highest rate of 82%.  77% of drug offenders, typically drug dealers, were rearrested over the five year period.  Recividism was highest among blacks, followed by Hispanics and whites.  Age and sex were also major factors with 84% of those 24 or younger rearrested.  The rearrest rate dropped to 69% for those 40 or older.  78% of males were rearrested compared to 68% of females. 

There will be two varieties of spin put on this study.  The first and most publicized will come from "Smart on Crime" advocates, which includes the ACLU, the Urban Institute, the Sentencing Project and much of academia.  They will point to these findings as proof that fixed and progressively severe consequences for criminals, such as mandatory minimums and habitual criminal sentencing have failed to rehabilitate criminals.  We will be told that the current transition to alternative sentencing featuring "evidence based practices" and treatment programs will help to reform the current racially biased system, lower the recividism rate, improve  public safety, and remove the stigma on America as the "incarceration nation."  

A contrasting take-away from this study will be advanced by most members of law enforcement closest to the streets, including prosecutors and police along with most crime victims advocates and a few think tanks and renegade academics.   We see the study as more evidence that the best way to protect the public from criminals is to maintain the very policies that the "smart of crime" disciples want to abandon, removing criminals from society for increasingly long periods depending upon the severity or frequency of the crimes they commit.  We will note that the highly touted evidence based practices have been utilized and repeatedly proven unsuccessful over the past twenty years,  while locking up violent and habitual criminals (including habitual thieves, drug dealers and fraudsters) gave our nation the lowest crime rates in fifty years, preventing millions of Americans from becoming victims.  With these policies in place, arrests for crimes and the annual number of criminals being sent to prison were actually dropping in states maintaining these polices over the past decade.  If history is any guide, most Americans, and particularly their elected representatives will prefer to believe the "smart on crime" happy talk promising utopia until enough regular folks find their car stolen, their home burglarized, or their daughter, son, father, wife, mother, or neighbor raped, robbed, beaten or murdered by a criminal free in the community, who we will be told "slipped through the cracks" of the brilliant new plan to fix human behavior.      

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