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The past four years show a five percent drop in the two-year recidivism rate

– The recidivism rate for offenders who were released to parole in 2003 was 38.15 percent, the lowest since 1979 when the rate was 33.2 percent, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials announced today.

CDCR research also shows that the one-year recidivism rate has been declining since 1997 when it was 44.9 percent. The highest one-year recidivism rate was in 1988 at 53.8 percent.

“While it is still early, this kind of information shows we are heading in the right direction, and the thing to remember is every drop in the recidivism rate means fewer victims in our neighborhoods,” said Acting CDCR Secretary Jeanne Woodford.

“The data are promising and underscore the need to continue providing meaningful, effective and evidence-based programs to offenders in order to help them become productive citizens when they return to our communities,” she said.

In addition to the one-year trend, for the past four years, there has been a decline in the two-year recidivism rate. Of the inmates who paroled in 2003, only 51.09 percent were back in custody after two years on parole. The last time the two-year recidivism rate was that low was in 1991 at 49.9 percent. Over the last four years, the rate has dropped approximately one percentage point each year from 56.1 percent in 1999 to 51.08 percent in 2003.

Although it is too early to say exactly why the recidivism rates are declining, Woodford said that true public safety includes both the principles of strong policing coupled with evidence-based programs designed to improve parolee outcomes.

“Maintaining and strengthening our relationships with our law enforcement partners as well as providing evidence-based education and rehabilitation programs to offenders to keep them from victimizing others is good public safety,” Woodford said.

CDCR researchers calculate recidivism rates by tracking inmates paroled in a calendar year and calculating the ratio of those who have been returned to custody, including felons returned to a substance abuse control unit in a correctional facility, returned on a parole revocation hearing, returned to custody for a parole violation, and returned to prison by a court on a new felony conviction.

To see the just released recidivism rates from 2003, visit