The Limits of Recidivism: Measuring Success After Prison

The Limits of Recidivism Cover

According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, recidivism is an inadequate measurement of success after release from prison. Instead, the report recommends researchers develop supplementary measures that evaluate success across multiple areas of a person’s life after prison — including employment, housing, health, social support, and personal well-being — and that measure interactions with the criminal justice system with more nuance.

The authors further assert that federal efforts should be directed to developing national standards for recidivism data and new measurements. The report says, given the rehabilitative function of prisons and reentry supervision, expanded measures of post-release success would enable these systems to better understand their impact and best practices.

The report also highlights the unique and essential insights held by those who have experienced incarceration and proposes that the development and implementation of new measures of post-release success would significantly benefit from active engagement with individuals with this lived experience.

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