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Recidivism of Offenders Given Suspended Sentences: A Comparison with Full-Time Imprisonment

NCJ Number
Rohan Lulham; Don Weatherburn; Lorana Bartels
Date Published
September 2009
16 pages
This study compared reoffending rates of offenders in New South Wales (Australia) who received suspended sentences with reoffending rates among a matched control group that received full-time prison sentences.
A suspended sentence involves a sentence of imprisonment that is suspended, allowing the offender to remain in the community under the condition that he/she not reoffend. Should reoffending occur, the prison sentence is imposed. The study found that offenders receiving a suspended sentence were not more likely to reoffend than those sentenced to full-time incarceration. For offenders with no prior prison sentences, there was no statistically significant difference in reoffending between offenders who received a suspended sentence and those who received a prison sentence; however, among offenders who had previously been imprisoned, those who received a full-time prison sentence reoffended substantially quicker than those who received a suspended sentence. The study thus concludes that there is no evidence that full-time imprisonment exerts a greater deterrent effect than a sentence of imprisonment that is suspended. For the purposes of this study, a cohort of offenders who received a suspended prison sentence (treatment group) or a full-time prison sentence (control group) in a New South Wales local district court between 2002 and 2004 was drawn from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reoffending database. All offenders had 3 years of potential follow-up time after their index court appearance. The measure of reoffending was free time to first offense resulting in a conviction. 4 tables, 5 figures, 5 notes, 66 references, and appended supplementary data