Reentry and Recidivism: Defining the Public Safety Challenge of Prisoner Reentry

Karen A. Beckman, The Urban Institute
Richard Rosenfeld, University of Missouri - St. Louis
Jeremy Travis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Joel Wallman, H. F. Guggenheim Foundation
Robert J. Fornango, University of Missouri - St. Louis

This presentation will focus on a critical question that fuels the public's concern about the large numbers of returning prisoners, shapes the reentry policies of elected officials and criminal justice administrators, and remains largely unaddressed in the research literature: What are the public safety consequences of the four-fold increase in the number of individuals entering and leaving the nation's prisons each year? Drawing both from the findings of the study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002) documenting the recidivism rate of a sample representing 272,111 prisoners released from the prisons of 15 states in 1994 and on additional analyses of these data, the limitations of the utility of "recidivism rates" as the metric for public safety is examined, and a new measure, the "rearrest ratio" is introduced. The utility of this framework to both assess the public safety risks posed by returning prisoners and to provide guidance to the development of local safety strategies will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006