Recidivism of Female Prisoners: A Gendered Review of the 1994 BJS Recidivism Data

Barbara Owen, California State University - Fresno
Elizabeth Piper Deschenes, California State University - Long Beach

The upsurge in female incarceration rates during the 1990s has generally been attributed to the increased participation of females in substance use and the get-tough policies of the war on drugs. There is a lack of knowledge regarding the extent to which these population increases may be due to recidivism, even though research indicates there is a 68% rearrest rate for state prisoners. This study utilizes the recent BJS recidivism data for state prisoners released in 1994 and separately examines female prisoners. This preliminary analysis describes the post-release performance of 23,583 women (8% of the entire sample of 272,111) using four measures of recidivism (re-arrest, reconviction, return to prison for parole violation and return to prison with a new sentence). Several offender and offense characteristics that may be predictive of recidivism are examined, including age, race/ethnicity, prior record, type of offense, and time served. Comparisons are made between the female and male subsamples on salient dimensions. The paper concludes with possible explanations for the gendered nature of these differences. We propose theoretical explanations for the decline in the recidivism rate over the past decade.

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Updated 05/20/2006