In the state of California, recidivism refers to a person’s return to criminal behavior after they have received sanctions or interventions for a crime they previously committed. In other words, recidivism refers to rearrest or a return to prison during the three years that follow a person’s release from prison.

According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the United States has one of the highest recidivism rates of any country. A study found that:

  • About 67 percent of released prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release from prison.
  • About 76 percent of released prisoners are reincarcerated or arrested within five years of their release.
  • Of the people who were arrested again, more than half had been arrested within a year of their release from prison.
  • The most likely people to be arrested again were property offenders. Approximately 82 percent of these offenders were arrested again, compared to about 77 percent of drug offenders and 71 percent of violent offenders.

While there are several programs in place to help ex-offenders transition to civilian life, studies have shown that it is the offender who ultimately must decide to make life changes. Programs and services only serve to assist in the transformation of offenders. Persons who have been in and released from prison must have a desire to turn their lives around and lead a crime-free existence.

It is unfair to say that every person released from prison will relapse within five years, but studies have shown that recidivism is a common phenomenon among ex-convicts. The reason for this is not entirely clear.