What is Recidivism?

The behavior of a repeat or habitual criminal. A measurement of the rate at which offenders commit other crimes, either by arrest or conviction baselines, after being released from incarceration.


Recidivism is the potential to return to previous undesirable behaviors.


For example a prison, treatment program, or detention program is said to have a high recidivism rate when they have a high number of people returning to their programs.


The goal of most programs is to have a low recidivism rate.

What does Recidivism Mean?

Recidivism basically refers to repeat behavior or not learning from past mistakes.


For instance, if someone is in prison for a certain crime, once he is released from prison and committing the same crime.


The recidivism rate in the United States is 60%. For more information look here :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism


There are many ideas on how to solve the problem of recidivism. Some of these include requiring literacy programs in penal institutions, electronic monitoring of home confinement, greater use of halfway houses, and "boot camp" programs consisting of military marching, discipline, physical training, work, classes, and drug and alcohol treatment for young, first-time offenders.

How to prevent prison recidivism?

1 Funnel addicts into mandatory treatment programs to help them overcome their addictions as they leave prison. A study by the Center for Impact Research and the Developing Justice Coalition found that substance abuse treatment leads to employment and to reintegration of former criminals back into society.

2 Focus on high-risk offenders. Screening assessments given before criminals leave prison can pinpoint those most likely to become repeat offenders. When these offenders are juveniles, the screenings should also include their families. They can learn anger management and reasoning skills when provided with detention, education and therapy. One such program is the Resolve to Stop the Violence Project in San Francisco, in which high-risk incarcerated criminals attend a mandatory program that includes violence prevention, addiction treatment, and job training, and which reduced recidivism over 80 percent in its target population.

3 Provide character education by teaching respect, morals and responsibility. Such programs help prison inmates learn behavioral skills and teach them moral and societal values they may never have learned at home. One such program, the Peaceful Solution Character Education Basic Inmate Workshop, includes in its teaching the principles of private ownership, self-control and authority.

4 Break up prison gangs. Gangs serve as a support system for inmates in prison, and gang involvement is one of the major predictors of recidivism.

5 Provide job skills training in and after prison. The inability to get and hold a job is a major factor in criminal recidivism. Former prisoners who are able to keep a good job after release experience an increase in self-confidence as well as economic stability. A steady income helps them integrate more successfully into society.

6 Provide group therapy for released inmates. This has proven particularly helpful with juvenile offenders in Pierce County, Wash., where teenage criminals attend mandatory group therapy led by social workers, with therapists available around the clock. In addition, the former inmates perform work crew chores, in which they perform physical community service tasks, and attend weekend classes in anger management and teamwork. The Pierce County program has reduced recidivism over 70 percent.

How to stop prison recidivism?

1 Educate the prisoners. Prisoners tend to have lower academic qualifications than non-prisoners. Widen the traditional view of education and include trades and apprenticeships into the education program. Explore the possibilities of starting a prison farm or garden, as this sort of work is thought to be therapeutic. The possibility of having a future outside of crime might help turn a prisoner's life around.

2 Develop a course of life skills, including subjects such as budgeting, anger management, assertiveness and child development. This is particularly relevant for the younger prisoner. Include incentives for successful completion of these courses, including a graduation ceremony. This will improve the sense of self-worth of a prisoner, and this may increase his motivation to achieve more. Anger management will help the prisoner develop alternative coping mechanisms that he or she may use outside the prison walls.

3 Develop links with other programs and local employers. Initiate systems such as on-the-job training programs, where the program finances up to 50 percent of the first six months of employment. This is an incentive for the employers to hire ex-prisoners, and hopefully keep them hired when this period has elapsed. An employed person has more to lose by committing a crime.

4 Prepare the inmates for employment by setting up mock interviews and discussing employable skills. Consider having a paid employment program within the prison. Make pay conditional on some of it being donated to victims' charities. Engage the prisoners in fund-raising or charitable efforts, fostering a sense of reparation and improving self-esteem. This good feeling may help the prisoner make better decisions in the future.

Will I be notified when the inmate leaves the prison to begin parole?

If you are a victim of crime and registered with OVA and want to be notified of the exact date of the inmate's release from prison, you should call our office at 1.800.563.6399.


Upon request, we do provide parole release information, when available, prior to the offender’s actual release.


The release information currently available includes the offender's date of release, the PBPP office out of which the offender will be supervised and, when available, the name of the assigned parole agent.


In cases where the offender is being paroled to a community corrections center, we also provide the name and location of the center.

If you are enrolled in PA SAVIN and your contact information is current, you will receive the following notifications from PA SAVIN via phone and/or email:
 --When the inmate is released on parole from a SCI
 --If the offender fails to report to the CCC or to the parole agent and is placed in “absconder” status

How long after release does the parolee have to report to his parole agent? How often will the parolee have to see the parole agent?

The parolee must report to the duty agent at the assigned parole office within 24 hours of release from prison, Monday through Friday.


The number of times the parolee must see his parole agent is determined by the level of supervision the offender is under. Upon the offender’s release from prison, parole agents utilize a risk-needs assessment to determine the appropriate level of supervision for the offender.


In addition to this assessment, there are certain criteria that must also be considered:
· A parolee serving time for a violent offense can never be below the medium level of supervision
· Sex offender supervision must never be below the maximum level of supervision
· Upon release, ALL parolees must be at least under the medium level of supervision


There are two types of contacts involved: face-to-face and collateral. Face-to-face contacts entail the parolee and the parole agent meeting, either in the PBPP office or where the parolee lives or works.


Collateral contacts involve the parole agent meeting with those who have contact with the parolee, without the parolee present. Collateral contacts can include treatment providers, employers, or family members.

Can I know where a parolee lives or works?

Due to legal restrictions, OVA staff is not permitted to release the addresses of private residences where parolees may live or businesses where parolees may work. Should you have a concern regarding the location of a parolee, please contact their office at 1.800.563.6399.

Can I know if he/she is in treatment or involved in special programs, like parenting classes or drug and alcohol counseling?

Information about the treatment an offender may be actively involved in is confidential and cannot be released to the public due to both Federal and State laws.

What do I do if the parolee contacts me?

If the parolee is behaving in a way that is threatening and/or places you in immediate danger, you should contact your local police department or call 911 immediately.


If the parolee has made or attempted to make contact with you, you may notify the parole agent. Be prepared that the agent will ask you questions about the type of the contact, the time and date it occurred, or if there were any other witnesses to the contact.


You may alway contact OVA to discuss what happened and what your options are.

Does my offender fall under Megan’s Law?

This is not a question that can be answered generally as it depends on when the offender was sentenced and the crime of conviction.


Please refer to the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board or PA Megan’s Law for more specific information about Megan’s Law in Pennsylvania.

What happens if the parolee fails to report to the community corrections center or to the parole agent?

The parole agent will attempt to locate the offender and if this fails, PBPP will issue a warrant for the parolee's arrest.


The parolee is considered an “absconder” when this occurs.

Am I allowed to contact the parole agent?

Yes. We encourage you to do so.


Once the offender is paroled, the office has very little direct information about the offender and his progress while on parole.


Although parole agents are restricted by law in providing specific information regarding an parolee’s address and progress in treatment, they can talk to you in general terms about supervision and what is expected from a parolee.

Have a question that has not been answered here?  Please contact us at the email link below.  Most questions are answered within 24 hours