News Releases

CDCR Releases Back‑to‑Back Annual Recidivism Reports

New reports mark shift to more meaningful measure of reoffending behavior

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) published two annual recidivism reports today. The 2016 Outcome Evaluation Report examined the recidivism of people released from state prison between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, and the 2017 Outcome Evaluation Report studied recidivism of people released in fiscal year 2012-2013. Starting with the 2016 report, CDCR is transitioning its primary measure of recidivism from the three-year return-to-prison rate to the three-year conviction rate. This change is consistent with the statewide definition of recidivism and provides a more meaningful measure of reoffending behavior for CDCR offenders.

For 40 years, CDCR has studied recidivism by tracking arrests, convictions and returns to prison and used the three-year return-to-prison rate as its primary measure. Following the implementation of Assembly Bill 109, California’s Public Safety Realignment Act, a law passed by the Legislature in 2011, there are fewer offenders who are eligible to return to state prison for parole violations and most offenders convicted of non-violent, non-serious, non-registrable sex-offense felonies serve their sentences in county jail. As a result, the three-year return-to-prison rate for fiscal year 2011-2012 is 25 percent; in fiscal year 2012-2013, it is 22.2 percent, substantially less than 67.5 percent in fiscal year 2005-2006 during the height of prison overcrowding.

Assembly Bill 1050, enacted in September 2013, required the Board of State and Community Corrections to develop definitions of key criminal justice terms including “recidivism” in order to facilitate consistency in local data collection, evaluation and implementation of evidence-based programs. The definition allows for supplemental measures of recidivism, including arrests, returns to custody, and supervision violations.

The State of California now defines recidivism as “conviction of a new felony or misdemeanor committed within three years of release from custody or committed within three years of placement on supervision for a previous criminal conviction.”

CDCR tracked 74,875 people who were released from state prison between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, for three years and found they had a three-year conviction rate of 54.3 percent.

Although Realignment has not heavily influenced the three-year conviction rate, it had a considerable effect on the size of the release cohort. CDCR tracked 35,790 people released from state prison between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, for three years. This cohort had a three-year conviction rate of 46.1 percent, which is less than the three-year conviction rate 10 years ago. This cohort is also the first group of offenders in which their release and three-year follow-up period occurred after the implementation of Realignment. Of this group, 19,294 offenders (53.9 percent) had no convictions within three years of their release.

chart of convictions versus returns to prison from 2002 to 2013

Overall, across the past 11 release cohorts, the three-year conviction rate has been generally stable.

The 2016 and 2017 Outcome Evaluation reports also examine offender demographics and characteristics including age, gender, ethnicity, offense, county of release, type of sentence, sex registration status, serious and violent offenders, prior incarcerations, mental health status and risk for reconviction.

Among the reports’ findings:

  • Men comprised more than 90 percent of both release cohorts; their three-year conviction rate for fiscal year 2011-2012 is 55 percent. For 2012-2013 it is 46.8 percent
  • The fiscal year 2011-2012 three-year conviction rate for women is 46.8 percent. For 2012-2013 it is 37.6 percent.
  • Offenders age 18 and 19 have the highest three-year conviction rate of all age groups. It is 67.3 percent for fiscal year 2011-2012 and 62.4 percent for those released in 2012-2013.
  • The 359 lifers released in 2011-2012 had a three-year conviction rate of 3.1 percent. The 492 lifers released in 2012-2013 had a 4.1 percent three-year conviction rate.
  • The three-year conviction rate for those serving a determinate sentence was 54.9 percent in fiscal year 2011-2012 and 47.3 percent in fiscal year 2012-2013.
  • Second strikers released in 2011-2012 had a 52.3 percent three-year conviction rate; it was 44.5 percent for second strikers released in 2012-2013.
  • The conviction rates of people who received in-prison substance abuse treatment and completed community-based substance abuse treatment programs are lower. Those released in 2011-2012 have a three-year conviction rate of 36.7 percent; it is 29.2 percent for those released in 2012-2013.

The Outcome Evaluation Report is published annually by CDCR’s Office of Research, which provides research, data analysis and evaluation to implement and assess evidence-based programs and practices, strengthen policy, inform management decisions and ensure accountability.