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.
The one-time survey provided national estimates of the recidivism rate of felons sentenced to probation in selected years. In the survey, samples of convicted felons placed on probation were tracked for three years, and data were compiled on the percentage of them who were are rearrested, reconvicted, or reimprisoned for new crimes within the three-year follow-up period. The various recidivism measures were based on official criminal history records maintained by each state.
BJS uses criminal history records to study the number and types of crimes committed by state prisoners both prior to and following their release. The first study tracked a sample of state prisoners released in 11 states in 1983, and the second study followed a sample of state prisoners released in 15 states in 1994. Both studies had a 3-year follow-up period. The latest study tracked a sample of prisoners released in 34 states in 2012 for 5 years after release.