September 2, 2014

Corrections study shows drop in recidivism rates

A new report shows fewer Wisconsin felons are committing new crimes after their release from state prisons. The Department of Corrections tracked recidivism rates for nearly 125,000 former inmates between 1990 and 2009. Secretary Gary Hamblin says they focused on offenders landing back in prison within three years of being released, and found what he describes as a “pretty consistent downward trend” over the past 20 years.

According to the report, the overall recidivism rate dropped 28.5 percent between 1993 and 2007. During that time frame, it peaked at 45.3 percent in 1993 and then dropped to 32.4 percent in 2007. The study found men were more likely to go back to prison than women, and the largest group of recidivists was between the ages of 20 and 24.

Hamblin believes the steady decline is the result of the numerous resources DOC has directed toward programs designed to prepare inmates for to rejoin society after their release. Through offering job skills courses and housing programs, he says a lot of effort has gone into helping inmates reenter society.

Despite the drop, the three year recidivism rate shows about one third of inmates still fail to stay out of trouble. Hamblin believes there are certain types of criminals who the state will simply be unable to keep from reoffending, although he does not believe they have hit the lowest rate possible.

Hamblin says the agency is currently reviewing its reentry programs to determine which have been most effective in lowering rates over the last decade, so it can devote more resources to efforts that are working.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:12)