A study to assess the rate of recidivism among Victorian (major) offenders, and factors which affect the recidivism rate

Criminology Research Council grant ; (35/89)

This research examines in detail the interactions between the personal characteristics of offenders as they bear on reoffending patterns. By focussing on the reoffending of released prisoners, the research provides insight into the behaviour of offenders who are at a relatively "developed" stage of their criminal career. It is argued that recidivism needs to be understood as a complex, dynamic feature of criminal career patterns, that it is influenced by an array of factors, only some of which are under the control of criminal justice agencies, and the use of recidivism as a measure of system effectiveness needs to take into account these factors if it is to provide a meaningful measure of system performance.

The study followed the recidivism patterns of 838 offenders on their release from Victorian prisons between May 1985 and December 1986, for a period of seven and a half years, using officially recorded data. Four measures were used to examine recidivism, re-conviction, re-imprisonment, time to fail and re-offending rates. In the seven years after their release, a total of 620 of the 838 prisoners in the full sample (74%) were reconvicted of at least one offence. Just over one-quarter of all releasees had been re-convicted of a further offence within three months of release, one third were re-convicted within five months of release, and by the end of the first year, the proportion re-convicted reached one-half.