BJS studies are the primary source of national statistics on recidivism and reentry for policymakers and practitioners. BJS has conducted recidivism research throughout its history, with the first publications released in the 1980s. Since then, BJS has expanded the program to include more data sources and improved data collection systems.
BJS uses a combination of surveys and administrative records to study recidivism and reentry. The administrative data include criminal history, probation and parole, state unemployment insurance, wage, and death records. Some research includes linking survey data to administrative records.
In 2008, BJS partnered with Nlets--the International Justice and Public Safety Network, which enabled queries of the FBI’s Interstate Identification Index (III) and state criminal history repositories to receive a single, uniform dataset of criminal history records from state and federal criminal justice agencies across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For its primary recidivism studies, BJS links the criminal history data with prisoner records that contain demographics, dates of admission and release, commitment offenses, sentence lengths, and other prisoner characteristics.
Recidivism refers to the reoffending of a person previously involved in the criminal justice system, as measured by events such as new arrests, convictions, or returns to prison.
Recidivism studies generally comprise three common characteristics –
- A starting event, such as an arrest or release from prison.
- An outcome measure following the starting event, such as a subsequent arrest, conviction, or return to prison.
- A follow-up period that extends from the date of the starting event to a predefined end date.
Reentry refers to the transition of offenders from prison or jail into the community and its associated outcomes.