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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.

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Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. The Limits of Recidivism: Measuring Success After Prison. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26459.

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Publication Info

226 pages | 6 x 9 | Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-309-27697-9
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/26459

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