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Effect of Time Served on Recidivism: An Interdisciplinary Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1988) Pages: 155-171
T Orsagh; J-R Chen
Date Published
17 pages
Data from 1425 prisoners released from the North Carolina prison system in 1980 formed the basis of an examination of the relationship between the probability that an individual offender will recidivate and the time that the offender has served in prison as a consequence of the offense.
Specific deterrent theory suggests an inverse relation between recidivism and time served, while social bonding theory suggests a direct relation. A review of these two theories suggested a U-shaped function. Data supported the hypothesis that the time served affects post-prison recidivism rates and that the direction of the effect varies by the class of offense. The recidivistic effect of longer prison sentences is complex and is likely to be offender-specific. Thus, a sentence can be either too long or too short for a specific individual. The research represents the first effort to synthesize the two major theoretical models and provides an explanation for the failure of past empirical work to establish a relation between time served and recidivism. Tables, appended model, and 45 references. (Author abstract modified)