CDCR Issues Recidivism Reports

By CN Staff

SACRAMENTO—The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) recently published two reports examining the recidivism outcomes of formerly incarcerated individuals released in Fiscal Years (FY) 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. The 2017/18 report is the first CDCR data available examining the recidivism among those impacted by Proposition 57, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016.

“This is the first cohort of released people after the passage of Proposition 57, and it is encouraging to see that credit-earning opportunities, particularly in education-led programs, is having a positive impact to improve public safety,” said Jeff Macomber, Secretary, CDCR. “Our focus has been and continues to be on creating an environment in prison that provides vital resources to the incarcerated population so that they can become better citizens upon release.”

For more than 40 years, CDCR has studied recidivism by examining arrests, convictions and returns to prison in the three years following the date of a person’s release. This is the nationally recognized primary measure of recidivism. The newly published reports examine the 31,792 people released from CDCR custody in FY 2016-17 and the 35,447 people released in FY 2017-18.

As with previous reports, the recidivism reports also examine offender demographics and characteristics including 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.

In the first report, which examines recidivism data prior to Prop 57, of the 31,792 total persons released in FY 2016-2017, 52.4 percent successfully reentered their communities and did not receive any additional convictions. This is a 3 percent decrease from FY 2015-2016. Of the 15,123 who received convictions, 51.4 percent were misdemeanor convictions, primarily for drug/alcohol crimes.

For FY 2017-2018, of the 35,447 persons released, 55.4 percent (19,643 persons) successfully reentered their communities and did not receive any additional convictions, showing a lower recidivism rate than the year prior. Of the 15,804 formerly incarcerated persons who did receive additional convictions, 53.1 percent were for misdemeanor convictions, primarily for drug/alcohol crimes (21.6 percent).

Of note, the 2017-18 report begins tracking the impact of the 2016 voter approved measure Proposition 57, which allows for enhanced credit-earning and parole opportunities. While the timing is limited, given Proposition 57 began a phased implementation throughout 2017, the preliminary data shows that half of the people released from prison that year (50.1 percent) earned some type of enhanced credit. The three-year conviction rate for offenders who earned credit (43.8 percent) was slightly lower than the rate for offenders with no enhanced credit earnings (45.4 percent). Additionally, those who earned Educational Merit Credit or Rehabilitative Achievement Credit had notably lower conviction rates (28.9 percent and 22.5 percent, respectively) than those without enhanced credit earning (45.4 percent).

While these are preliminary findings, they show an early positive trend in California’s investments to improve public safety through an increased focus on rehabilitation, education, and restorative justice efforts.