Recidivism of Violent and Non-Violent Offenders

Paige M. Harrison, Bureau of Justice Statistics

The increase in the use of incarceration as a form of crime control is supported by the theories of deterrence and incapacitation. There is limited research, however, on how individual level characteristics impact the likelihood of recidivism of the violent offender as compared to that of the non-violent offender. Who is deterred from future crime through incarceration? Who is simply incapacitated? This study looks at recidivism among a cohort of prisoners from 15 states released in 1994 and tracked for three years by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Characteristics between violent and non-violent offenders are compared, as well as characteristics between those who reoffended and those who did not, focusing specifically on offense type and the time to reoffense. Using multiple regression, the relative importance of different factors that increase and decrease likelihood of recidivism are measured. Based on these results, the theory of either deterrence or incapacitation may apply to different types of offenders, and policymakers should consider these differences when making or changing policy.

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Updated 05/20/2006