In California, Around 40 Percent of those on Parole Committed Crimes Again Within a Year of Leaving Prison

Recidivism rate declines to 27–year low

By Kim Curtis

Posted on Tue, Apr. 11, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO – Fewer than 40 percent of parolees reoffended during their first year out of prison, the lowest rate in more than a quarter–century, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Monday.

Just more than 38 percent of all felons who were released from prison in 2003 landed back behind bars by the end of the following year, the lowest rate since 1979.

“While it is still early, this kind of information shows we are heading in the right direction, and the thing to remember is every drop in the recidivism rate means fewer victims in our neighborhoods,” said acting department Secretary Jeanne Woodford.

The one–year recidivism rate peaked in 1988 at about 54 percent and has been on the decline since 1997, when it was just under 45 percent.

The department’s goal is to reduce the rate another 10 percent by 2010, Woodford said.

Felons are considered recidivists when they return to prison for any reason, including committing a new crime or violating parole.

Corrections officials could not pinpoint exactly why recidivism rates were dropping. Ryken Grattet, assistant secretary for the department’s research office, speculated that expanded parolee programs, changes in the law and local community activities all played a role.

Two–year recidivism rates also are declining, officials said.

Of the inmates who were paroled in 2003, 51 percent were back in custody after two years. The last time the two–year recidivism rate was that low was in 1991, at 50 percent. Over the past four years, the rate has dropped approximately one percentage point each year from 56 percent in 1999 to 51 percent in 2003, the department said.