Theoretical and empirical literature on the effects of prison or jail sentences on recidivism are reviewed.
The discussion noted that opinions are divided between those advocating longer sentences in the interest of public safety and those advocating shorter sentences with the assumption that incarceration, or longer prison terms, will not reduce rates of recidivism. The analysis reveals that the effect of incarceration, versus other sentencing options, and sentence length on recidivism is complex and is likely to be offender-specific. For some offenders, incarceration and longer confinement seem to increase the risk of recidivism. For other offenders, the likelihood of reoffense will either be unaffected or reduced by longer terms of incarceration. Furthermore, early release programs do not appear to affect overall recidivism rates. Footnotes, appended summary of research findings, and 19 references
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