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Massachusetts Recidivism Study: A Closer Look at Releases and Returns to Prison

NCJ Number
Rhiana Kohl Ph.D; Hollie Matthews Hoover; Susan V. McDonald; Amy L. Solomon
Date Published
April 2008
This study examined recidivism rates for a cohort of male prisoners released in 2002 from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC).
Results indicate that the transition from prison to community, especially the first year after release is a challenge and requires more than preparing inmates for successful transition back to the community. Partnerships with appropriate community service providers, and support systems must be available in collaboration with all supervisory agencies (parole and probation) when involved. In 2002, the Massachusetts DOC released 1,786 male inmates to the community via expiration of sentence or parole. In total, 39 percent recidivated and were returned to prison for a new sentence or on a technical parole violation within 3 years of release. On average, the 700 men who returned to prison were young, single, and more likely to commit nonviolent crimes such as property crimes. A disproportionate number of Black inmates recidivated at a statistically higher rate of 44 percent compared with other races. In general, inmates released from the Massachusetts DOC had dense and lengthy criminal histories. On average, comparisons between recidivists and non-recidivists indicated that recidivists were younger when they became involved in the criminal justice system and accumulated more arraignments, convictions, and incarcerations. Within the recidivists, parolees returned for a technical violation had a less dense criminal history, perhaps because their parole officers returned them to prison before they could commit additional offenses. Most noteworthy was that at least 72 percent of the men in the release cohort had been incarcerated at least once prior to entering prison for their current sentences. Data were collected from DOC administrative records, parole officer focus groups, and interviews of recidivists as they returned to prison. Tables, figures