Juvenile and Adult Recidivism
Virginia's recidivism rate helps illustrate how well the state's programs work in keeping offenders from committing additional crimes. Making state-to-state comparisons is difficult, however, as there are usually significant differences in how states define and track recidivism measures.
Why is This Important?
Recidivism is a key indicator for determining whether criminal justice interventions, from diversion through incarceration, are making a difference in turning offenders away from crime. While there is no standard national definition or measurement of recidivism, the three most common measures include:
- Rearrest -- being charged with a new offense.
- Reconviction -- being found guilty of a new offense in a court of law.
- Reincarceration -- being sentenced to a secure facility after being found guilty of a new offense.
How is Virginia Doing?
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice tracks rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration for 12 months after release from a juvenile correctional center.
In 2011, rearrest occurred within one year for 42.3 percent of juveniles released from a correctional center. This rate is down from the previous year -- and at the lowest rate since 2007. Reconviction occurred for 35.5 percent and reincarceration for 18.1 percent of juveniles who were rearrested in 2010. These rates are up slightly from the average over the past three years.
The Virginia Department of Corrections tracks reincarceration, including those stemming from parole violations, for 3 years after release from an adult correctional facility. According to the latest data available, about 29 percent of inmates are reincarcerated within 36 months of being released from prison.
What Influences Recidivism?
Economic conditions and employment strongly influence whether or not offenders commit new crimes. Getting a job is often complicated by the stigma attached to being an ex-offender. Many are also unprepared for the world of work, lacking educational attainment, vocational training and life skills. Offenders who have been incarcerated for long periods of time and youth who never developed such competencies may require a strong network of support services to avoid criminal behavior.
What is the State's Role?
Virginia provides a wide range of services and programs for both juvenile and adult offenders to aid in their transition from incarceration to private life. The Departments of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and Corrections work with the incarcerated in a variety of treatment and educational / vocational programs. Both agencies also provide support services and parole supervision to help them make the transition back into the community upon release. See State Programs and Initiatives at right for additional information.
Data Definitions and Sources
Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, 2012 Data Resource Guide (PDF)
(updated annually in December)
Virginia Department of Corrections, Reincarceration Rates (PDF)
Notes on Additional Differences in How Recidivism is Measured:
- Variations in when recidivism tracking begins (while the offender is still in a correctional environment, or after release);
- The length of time during which recidivism is tracked (one year, multiple years, etc.);
- The kinds of offenses counted as recidivism (all offenses, only criminal offenses, only felonies, etc.);
- How new qualifying offenses are characterized (must be new crimes or can be technical parole or minor violations (such as traffic infractions); and
- How the data is obtained (juvenile system only, adult system only, both systems, different jurisdictional levels (city, county, statewide, multi-state, etc.).
Likewise, data on adult recidivism offers little comparable information. Two studies in 1983 and 1995 tracked offenders released from prisons in 11 and 15 states, respectively. Their findings may serve as a national baseline for recidivism.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Virginia Performs.