States Succeed in Reducing Recidivism


On September 25, the Council of State Governments released a policy brief profiling a number of states that have succeeded in significantly reducing recidivism.

Based on data tracking people released from prison in 2005 and 2007, Texas and Ohio reduced recidivism by 11%, Kansas’s rate fell by 15%, and Michigan’s rate dropped by 18%. Data through 2010 and 2011 shows that 70% of all states are now reporting steady or declining recidivism rates.

Pressure to cut spending has driven improved efforts to reduce reoffense rates in order to save money and increase public safety. “If states across the country could reduce their recidivism rates by just 10 percent, they could save more than half a billion dollars combined in one year alone in averted prison costs,” according to Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project.

The policy brief highlights state strategies that are helping reduce recidivism. Ohio focused its limited treatment and supervision resources on those individuals assessed at the highest risk for reoffending. Kansas awarded performance-based grants to community corrections agencies, partnered with local communities where recidivism rates were highest to improve post-release supervision, and enhanced housing and workforce development services to better meet the needs of people coming out of prison.

Michigan invested heavily in its Prisoner Reentry Program, prioritizing funding for housing, employment, and other transition support services in order to provide the most effective community-based programming for released individuals.

The Council of State Governments points to support for state and local reentry initiatives provided by the Second Chance Act, whose co-author U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said, “Encouraging people released from prison to become productive members of society not only strengthens communities, but also reduces the burden on taxpayers who shoulder the costs associated with incarceration.”