Building Second Chances: Tools for Local Reentry Coalitions

PARTS 1 & 2

This toolkit is designed for local city, county, and community leaders who want to play an active role in improving reentry policy, practice, and outcomes. Within, you will find user-friendly references to seminal publications, research findings, and noteworthy examples of the foundational knowledge needed to design new reentry strategies and reinvigorate existing ones.

Determine what recidivism metrics to track Icon of pdf document

This part of the toolkit will help you to understand what metrics to use to track recidivism [link] in your community. You’ll discover your coalition’s important role in defining and prioritizing the measures of recidivism, interpreting data trends, and making decisions about how to reduce recidivism. Here you’ll find key measures of recidivism and how to use your reentry map to see patterns in how people move through the criminal justice system and what their return to the community looks like.

The information and resources in this section include:

Though each jurisdiction decides for itself how to define and track recidivism, four measures are most commonly used:

Key Recidivism Measures

Rearrest is the broadest measure of recidivism. Because not all arrests result in a guilty finding or conviction, this metric may suggest that there is more criminal activity than there actually is. However, it is still an important measure of the volume of people returning to courts and county jails as well as one of the most comprehensive indicators available of a person’s interaction with the criminal justice system.

Reconviction provides clear evidence that new criminal activity has been committed by someone with prior involvement in the criminal justice system and is considered the most accurate indicator of recidivism and public safety outcomes.

Reincarceration can be the result of both criminal and noncriminal behavior (e.g., incarceration for certain supervision violations) and generally refers to prison incarceration. Reincarceration is an important indicator of recidivism to track because it generates a significant financial burden for local jurisdictions, which often are responsible for incarcerating people who have been revoked from community supervision. This measure also represents a significant burden to the individual who is reincarcerated, as time in a correctional facility disrupts engagement with treatment, employment, family, and more.

Revocation occurs when people who have been sentenced to probation supervision or who have been assigned to probation or parole after a term of incarceration have their supervision status revoked and are incarcerated as a result. Revocation can be the result of both criminal and noncriminal behavior (e.g., arrest or conviction for a new crime or the violation of supervision conditions). It is a key measure to track because it helps reveal why people are unsuccessful on probation or parole and the associated cost implications for local and state governments. [7]

These Questions to Consider will help you determine local and state measures of recidivism and how to evaluate the impact of local recidivism reduction programs:

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Questions to Consider
Icon of building with a check-marked shield in front all inside a circle Do you know how your state measures and tracks recidivism?
For a high-level view of recidivism trends in your community, it is important to understand the measures your state uses to track recidivism. Often, state corrections and parole agencies publish annual recidivism measures as part of their reporting requirements to state lawmakers or oversight boards or councils. Such reports typically document recidivism measures by county or region. Understanding how recidivism is measured by state agencies also can inform what measure(s) of recidivism your local reentry coalition chooses to track in your local community. See how your state measures recidivism in the Council of State Governments Justice Center’s 50-State Report on Public Safety.
Icon of square building with a check-marked shield in front all inside a cirlce Do you know how your county measures and tracks recidivism?
As the administrators of local jails, county governments often track jail admissions by categories, such as supervision revocation or supervision status at time of jail admission, which can offer insights into recidivism trends in your region. Many counties administer probation supervision and therefore measure arrests, convictions, and jail/prison admissions for people on county probation supervision. You also might explore what, if any, local recidivism data are required to be reported to the state; some states compile regional recidivism data, which enable you to see how your community compares to others using the same definition and calculation of recidivism.
Icon of magnifying glass inside a circle Are local reentry providers evaluated for their impact on recidivism?
Community-based reentry providers may have participated in evaluations or outcome studies that measured their impact on recidivism. Contact these providers and request any evaluations or studies that examined recidivism. Compiling program evaluations will give you a sense of the organizations and programs that have prioritized recidivism reduction as a focus of their work. Local reentry programs 
that have undergone evaluations often have learned valuable lessons and can be a tremendous resource for your local reentry coalition.

The Quick References in this section detail supervision and parole violations, how reoffending affects public safety, and how these problems can be mitigated. 

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Quick References

Confined and Costly: How Supervision Violations Are Filling Prisons and Burdening Budgets (2019)
Probation and parole are designed to lower prison populations and help people succeed in the community. New data show they are having the opposite effect. This report presents the first complete picture of how probation and parole violations make up states’ prison populations.

50-State Report on Public Safety, Part 2: Break the Cycle of Reoffending (2018) The report is a web-based resource that combines extensive data analyses, case studies, and recommended strategies from all 50 states to help policymakers address their state’s specific public safety challenges. Appendix C: Part 2 of the report focuses specifically on strategies for breaking the cycle of reoffending at the state and local levels.