Program and policy development in the criminal justice arena has become
increasingly reliant on quantitative and qualitative evidence to assess
efficiency and effectiveness and to guide better practice. Recidivism has
received much attention in recent years - the extent to which an individual
offender or group of offenders reoffend. Recidivism research provides promise
for crime control strategies targeted at reducing reoffending. Identifying
recidivism risk factors, understanding the correlates of high volume offending,
and evaluating programs designed to reduce offending remain three key research
and policy priorities in Australia.
There is still a considerable divide between recidivism research and policy.
What policy makers would like to measure is often not the same as researchers
are able to measure, given the limitations on appropriate data and available
information. As a result, research findings are often used out of context and
with little regard for limitations imposed on them by the methodological
constraints they face. This is driven primarily by a lack of clarity about an
appropriate definition of recidivism and clear articulation of research
This report deals with important questions relating to recidivism research. It
provides a conceptual framework through which recidivism can be defined and
interpreted and arms researchers and policy makers with a battery of tools
useful in critical assessment of the research literature.