Criminologists often refer to the recidivism rate as the revolving door process that too many criminals get caught in. A new report from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections documents a decline in the percentage of criminals who continue to go in and out of prison.
The report covers the years between 1990 and 2009 and finds that while the prison population has tripled, the recidivism rate has dropped from 45-percent to 32-percent. Department of Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin says that's good news. But Hamblin says it's too early to tell what aspects of the department's current re-entry programs are responsible for the lower rate, "What we hope to do from this point forward is examine individual programs and see which ones are having an effect, a positive effect on that recidivism rate so that we can devote more resources to those programs that work."
And says Hamblin get rid of the programs that aren't working. UW-Madison criminal justice professor Ken Streit says the baseline data in this report does give the department somewhere to start and he hopes one of the next steps will be to try to tease out a clear picture of who the younger high risk offenders are and focus on programs that will keep them out of prison once they're released, "You'd assume that possibly the most serious one-third might still have a high recidivism rate so one of the things that one things that this study can't get into is have we really lowered the recidivism rate for that highest one third severity chronicity kind of group."
The next report the DOC plans to work on will attempt to get a better handle on answering that question by examining the public safety risk for offenders depending on what kind of crime they committed.