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New Study Reveals Most Criminals Return to Prison Within Three Years

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Department of Justice Study Shows Most Criminals Rearrested Within Three Years.

In light of President Obama's plan to grant clemency to release hundreds of federal nonviolent drug offenders, particularly those convicted under the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing guidelines during the 1980's and 1990's; Obama's move in this direction has been widely criticized by law-and-order public citizens, news media pundits, conservative lawmakers, including the federal justice system.

Highly upset that the President's initiative would undo the penalties handed down by the courts, the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys wrote a stinging rebuke to Attorney General Eric Holder back in January arguing that the current sentencing system is "worth preserving."

Deputy Attorney General James Cole fired back.

james cole
Deputy Attorney General James Cole

"Older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today's laws erode people's confidence in our criminal justice system."

Recidivism Rates

Obama's announcement to grant clemency to convicted criminals coincided with the recent findings of a major study by Department of Justice which shows two-thirds of criminals(or 67.8%) released from prison are rearrested within three years.

The first such federal survey in nearly 20 years revealed an even higher recidivism rate within five years of inmates being let out: 76.9%. The research also determined that of those prisoners who were rearrested within five years of release, 36.8% were arrested within the first six months and 56.7% within the first year.

The DOJ's findings showed higher return rates than a 2011 study by the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project. That report said 45% of prisoners released from prison in 1999 and 43% of those freed in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years, according to Ted Gest of The Crime Report.

Gest noted that the Pew numbers were lower because that study included only those returned to prison, while the DOJ study included all who were rearrested.

Other findings from the DOJ study included:

82% of property offenders returned to prison within five years, compared to 77% of drug offenders, 74% of public order offenders and 71% of violent offenders.

African-Americans had the highest recidivism rate (81%) within five years of release, compared with 75% for Hispanics and 73% for whites.

The DOJ study involved 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 by 30 states: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

An analyst & researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. His writing career began with True Crime Magazines in Houston TX in 1983, where he published over 300 feature stories. Read an expanded bio and more stories by Clarence Walker.

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