Recidivism Rates Drop in Pennsylvania State Prison System

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel yesterday announced what he called “exciting” statistics on recidivism in the state corrections system demonstrating that prison reform efforts are showing concrete results in the area of public safety.

The DOC released updated statistics that show six-month, one-year and three-year recidivism rates for the years of 2000 through 2013 that show all three rates dropped in the latest year.

“These are exciting numbers and show that we’re making real increases in public safety,” Wetzel said. “I look forward to continued work with the General Assembly, the law enforcement community and Governor Wolf to continue this important trend.”

For example, based on the latest one-year recidivism rate drop from 2013 to 2014, there were approximately 1,028 less individuals released from the DOC who broke the law or violated the rules of their supervision.

Wetzel noted that the reduction in overall recidivism rates took place at the same time that crime rates were dropping in Pennsylvania. The DOC’s overall recidivism definition is the first instance of any type of rearrest or reincarceration after an inmate is released from prison.

“The sizes of the one-year and six-month drops in the recidivism rate are especially noteworthy,” Wetzel continued. “These rates reflect DOC’s most recent performance since the Justice Reinvestment Initiative was enacted.”

Wetzel pointed out that, in addition to these drops in the recidivism rates, the DOC, over the last few years, has experienced the largest decrease in prison population in decades and, in 2014, experienced the lowest number of court commitments in seven years.

The DOC statistics show:

  • The latest three-year recidivism rate is the lowest rate the DOC has ever recorded.
  • The latest three-year recidivism rate is also the second largest drop in the three-year recidivism rate from the previous year (from 61.4 percent in 2010 to 59.5 percent in 2011).
  • The latest one-year recidivism rate is the second lowest the DOC has ever recorded.
  • It is also by far the largest drop in the one-year rate from the previous year (from 40.4 percent in 2012 to 35.1 percent in 2013 – or a drop of 5.3 percentage points).
  • The latest six-month recidivism rate is the lowest the DOC has ever recorded.
  • It also is the largest drop in the six-month rate from the previous year (from 24.1 percent in 2012 to 19.0 percent in 2013, or a drop of 5.1 percentage points).

“The decrease in new court commitments, which is a driver of this recidivism reduction, is proof that the efforts of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative are working. All stakeholders in this process – including the General Assembly and district attorneys – should be credited for their on-going, bi-partisan efforts,” Wetzel said.

Wetzel also acknowledged ongoing DOC and PA Board of Probation and Parole employee accomplishments that continue to improve cooperative efficiencies – showing that in the state’s criminal justice system, government works.

Recidivism Rates

In 2013, DOC officials released a groundbreaking recidivism report, which included the last recidivism numbers reported by the DOC before these new numbers. The 2013 recidivism report also included an updated definition of recidivism, which provided a more accurate and comprehensive view of recidivism in terms of an individual’s contact with the entire criminal justice system. It also provided a baseline for moving forward that focuses on performance-based recidivism reduction outcomes.

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