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Are All Released Prisoners Rearrested?
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 07/08/2019

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It’s a common question, “How many offenders are arrested after being released from prison?” The quick answer is the vast majority.

Data from a newly released Department of Justice report on sex offenders include observations about “all” released from prison regardless as to the charge. The finding?

About two-thirds (67%) of released sex offenders were arrested at least once for any type of crime during the 9 years following their release, compared to about five-sixths (84%) of other released prisoners. Almost all prisoners who were re-arrested (96% of released sex offenders and 99% of all released offenders) were arrested for an offense other than a probation or parole violation. For some categories of offenders, the percentage of arrests is higher (see chart below)

How many were convicted? At the end of the 9-year follow-up, 50% of sex offenders and 69% of all released prisoners had a new arrest that led to a conviction, BJS.

Click here to view chart "Percent of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005 who were arrested within 9 years following release, by most serious commitment offense and types of post-release arrest charges".


The results are startling when you consider that only a small percent of crimes are reported, less than two in five reported crimes end in an arrest, and many arrests are not prosecuted per US Department of Justice data.

The most common understanding of recidivism is based on state data from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, stating that two-thirds (68 percent) of prisoners released were arrested for a new crime within “three” years of release from prison, and three-quarters (77 percent) were arrested within “five” years, Recidivism. We now have nine years of data.


Advocates will claim institutional race or ethnic or class bias or charge police with overly aggressive enforcement or parole and probation with harsh supervision.

But when the great majority of crime isn’t reported or solved or significant numbers are not prosecuted or the fact that virtually all plea to a lesser charge or arrests for parole and probation technical violations are tiny, the advantage seems to belong to the offender; which is why I started the article with a quote from the Baltimore police commissioner claiming a “culture of violence where criminals do not fear any possible consequences.” Lots of police chiefs make similar claims as violence rises in many (not all) American cities.

The Department of Justice data won’t change anyone’s mind about the nature of crime and enforcement but no one disputes the numbers and they, unto themselves, are startling.

Criminal justice reform is a worthy endeavor and not everyone needs to go to prison (but most felony convictions do not end in a sentence to prison) and not all sentences need to be long (the average violent offender serves less than three years in prison). Most in prison are serving time for crimes of violence (55 percent) or have a history of violence or have multiple arrests, convictions or incarcerations. Everything cited is backed by federal data.

Yes, I have met and interviewed hundreds of former prisoners who are now leading law-abiding, productive lives. They should be celebrated and studied.

But reform needs to be balanced with accountability and according to many chiefs of police, offenders simply do not fear the consequences of today’s criminal justice system.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of persons who had been victims of violent crime is up 17 percent from 2015, Crime in The US. But the other two indexes (FBI and Gallup) show flat or decreasing crime for the latest reports.

Reprinted with permission from https://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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