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Improving Recidivism as a Performance Measure

NCJ Number
Ryan King; Brian Elderbroom
Date Published
October 2014
13 pages
Developed in collaboration with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), this policy brief outlines the necessary elements to guide States in defining, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating recidivism data.
This policy brief outlines four steps to make recidivism a meaningful performance measure: 1) define and use multiple measures of success; 2) collect, develop protocols to ensure data are consistent, accurate, and timely; 3) analyze, account for the underlying composition of the population; and 4) disseminate, package the findings to maximize impact and get the results into the hands of decisionmakers. Recidivism, the most commonly used definition of correctional success, is one example of a performance measure that many States use. Broadly defined as reengaging in criminal behavior after receiving a sanction or intervention, recidivism is an important performance measure for justice agencies and should be at the heart of any effort to evaluate Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) outcomes. Unfortunately, recidivism is most frequently reported as a single, Statewide rate, which is too imprecise to draw meaningful conclusions and insufficient for assessing the impact of changes to policy and practice. Outlined in this brief are necessary elements that every State should be using when defining, collecting, analyzing, and disseminating recidivism data. The specific metrics will vary from State to State, but a blueprint exists for expanding beyond system-level trends, accurately comparing across groups and over time, and using the results to inform decisionmaking and improve outcomes. This policy brief lays the groundwork and sets the stage for the next generation of recidivism research.
Date Published: October 1, 2014