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Report on recidivism research

Media Release

12 October 2007

'Evidence based policy development is important in criminal justice, and research that examines re-offending can improve our understanding of what works and with whom ', Dr Toni Makkai, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, said at the release of 'Recidivism in Australia: findings and future research', number 80, in the AIC's Research and public policy series.

This report brings together, for the first time, a range of different methods used by Australian researchers to measure recidivism, and highlights their strengths and weaknesses.

The report also provides a comprehensive overview of the key findings from Australian studies in the past decade that have examined recidivism of offenders. The findings include:

  • Recidivism of adult prisoners:
    • about two out of three prisoners will have been previously imprisoned
    • about one in four prisoners will be reconvicted within three months of being released from prison
    • over a third of prisoners will be reimprisoned within two years of being released
    • Recidivism of adult offenders based on self-report and administrative methodologies (excluding prisoners)
      • approximately 50 percent of adult police detainees will have been arrested at least once in the past 12 months
      • approximately one in five will have spent time in prison in the last 12 months
      • between 50-60 percent of adult police arrestees will be rearrested within 10 years
      • about two-thirds of adult offenders appearing before the lower courts will have been previously convicted
      • approximately 15 percent of adult offenders released from community corrections will return to community corrections within two years.
      • Recidivism among juvenile detainees
        • approximately half of all juveniles in detention across Australia have spent time in prison on at least one prior occasion
        • more than half of those released from detention will be reconvicted within six months
        • nearly eight in every 10 juveniles released from detention will be subject to supervision (community or custodial) by a corrective services agency within seven years and almost half will be imprisoned as an adult
        • juvenile detainees are likely to be reconvicted of new offences much sooner than adult prisoners.
        • Juvenile offender studies based on samples of police arrestees, court attendees, court convictees and community corrections participants suggested that:
          • around half of juvenile police arrestees have been arrested at least once in the 12 months prior to their current arrest
          • approximately half of the juveniles appearing before a youth or children's court will have been convicted previously
          • approximately one-third of juveniles appearing in the youth or children's court will be reconvicted before the age of 18, increasing to two-thirds when early adulthood convictions are included.
          • Other findings:
            • reoffending peaks in the mid to late teenage years. The probability of being a recidivist is greatest between the ages of 17 and 21 years of age
            • the younger the age at which an offender commences offending, the more likely they are to be recidivist offenders
            • serious acquisitive offences, such as robbery and property offences, are clear markers of an increased risk of reoffending
            • unemployment, limited or low level education, low socio-economic neighbourhood, a history of mental health problems, family instability and serious, prolonged drug use are key factors linked to recidivism
            • post-release difficulties such as limited access to financial resources, limited contact with family and limited knowledge of social support and health services are factors linked to a higher probability of reoffending.

            The report highlights areas of research that are likely to generate important and interesting findings for public policy and crime prevention including:

            • developing recidivism prediction models using exploratory analysis of specific offender populations
            • additional exploratory analysis of recidivism in neglected or emerging areas of crime such as white collar crime, transnational crime, cybercrime, family and domestic violence, and recidivism among the mentally ill
            • further investment in evaluating the number and variety of crime prevention and reduction programs operating across Australia.