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Are Deportable Aliens a Unique Threat to Public Safety?: Comparing the Recidivism of Deportable and Nondeportable Aliens

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 59-82
Laura J. Hickman; Marika J. Suttorp
Date Published
February 2008
24 pages
This study compared the recidivism of 517 deportable and 780 nondeportable aliens over a period of 30 days after their release from the Los Angeles County jail in 2002.
Using three different measures of rearrest, the study found that immigrant status (legal or illegal) was not a factor linked to recidivism. For both legal and illegal immigrants, factors associated with recidivism were previous arrests, age, at least one drug charge, and at least one charge for a property offense. At least one prior conviction was significantly associated with both frequency of rearrest and with the timing of rearrest. The study thus finds no support for the frequent assertion that illegal aliens are a unique threat to public safety. One explanation is that both legal and illegal immigrant offenders are equivalent in their tendency toward reoffending. This is supported by their tendency toward similar arrest histories. The authors advise that the findings should be interpreted within the context of a jail sample, which means it does not include the highest risk inmates who are transferred to State prison. Also, the study did not address whether foreign-born individuals as a group, whether legal or illegal, were at higher risk of recidivism than native-born U.S. citizens. The study sample consisted of 517 illegal immigrants and 780 legal immigrants. In addition to deportable status (the key variable of interest), independent variables pertained to demographic characteristics, criminal history, and arrest history. Rearrests and time to rearrest after release were monitored for 1 year after release from jail. The followup period extended to September 3, 2003, following release on September 2, 2002. 6 tables, 2 figures, and 38 references


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