Only 25% recidivism? I’d say that’s progress!

Just so we’re clear, I’m no fan of Wisconsin Act 28, which brought about sweeping reforms to Wisconsin’s Truth in Sentencing laws, including provisions that allowed for multiple early-release programs for inmates in Wisconsin prisons, including inmates convicted of violent offenses.

Having made that point abundantly clear, I’d like to take at what Jessica McBride wrote for the right-wing Wisconsin Policy Research Institute yesterday. In noting that a second individual recently released from prison early under the provisions of Act 28, McBride noted that two of the eight individuals released early to Milwaukee County have already been rearrested (emphasis mine):

Eight of those first 22 released inmates were from Milwaukee County. That’s a 25 percent recidivism rate for Milwaukee County early release inmates in less than 2 months.

Citing the 25 percent recidivism rate, it seems Jessica McBride wants readers to think that the 25 percent recidivism rate represents a clear indication the early release program has jeopardized public safety, but as a report issued by the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission points out, recidivism rates in Wisconsin have typically been higher than 25 percent, depending on the number of prior offenses an individual has been convicted of.

Percent of Wisconsin Recidivists Who Commit Subsequent Offenses
Number of Prior Offenses: 1 2 3 4 5
Recidivism Rate: 39% 50% 55% 57% 58%

Considering recidivism rates for Wisconsin offenders range from 39 percent to 58 percent depending on the number of prior convictions, it would sure seem that a 25 percent recidivism rate for offenders released early from prison to Milwaukee County is a success, not a failure.


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19 thoughts on “Only 25% recidivism? I’d say that’s progress!

  1. From the report:

    Second, what is the time frame of recidivism? Beck reports that time-frames in previous studies range from one to 22 years…Beck concludes by stating “Without keeping the three concepts…in mind, recidivism information will not be useful in knowledgeable decision-making” (Beck, 2001).

    The numbers you cite cover a time frame of up to 23 years (1980-2003). The timeframe of the for the early releases listed was less than two months. You even bolded it yourself.

    The take-away for me is either this was a bad policy decision, or whoever did the selection was an idiot. Well actually I’m pretty sure it’s both, but the latter is really staggering. Knowing the program was highly controversial, wouldn’t you make sure to select the very best candidates, the ones most sure to not leave egg all over your face? If they didn’t think of that – they’re idiots. If they did and still selected these guys, they’re completely incompetent. Either way, please explain to me why should whoever signed off on these guys should still have his job?

    1. Locke, it’s also worth noting I used the loosest definition of “recidivism” possible. The report I linked to (and most reports I’ve seen nationally) considering “recidivism” to be reincarceration in prison following revocation of supervision or new criminal charges (or both). Neither of the offenders McBride mentioned have been reincarcerated; they’re simply being held on rules violations.

      1. That’s a good point. But again, major criticisms still stand. First, that the guys chosen at this point, should be shining examples or risk blowing up the program for the rest. And second, that the “nonviolent” offenders we were pitched doesn’t seem to apply. These guys are not hard-luck, one mistake guys – they’re multi-offense, even pathological criminals. For example, Parnell has committed further crimes very shortly after being released on at least 2 occasions prior. He had blamed his latest burglary offense on Corrections releasing him too early before.

        Again, what the hell are they thinking? There has to be more deserving cases, right? Or is it the case that we already let most of those people go and the ones remaining in prison now are already the worst of the worst?

        1. Locke, I’m absolutely in agreement that early release should be reserved for the most deserving of offenders, but unfortunately, that’s not the way the law was written.

      2. Zach, I wonder how you know so certainly that these offenders have not been re-incarcerated and that they are merely being held on rules violations. However you got that information it still points out the fact that these individuals are not willing to comply with the conditions they are given.

          1. Really interesting, what website offers you information pertaining to the reason an individual is being held?

              1. This is a really interesting site but it doesnt say exactly why the offender is in custody.

                1. Sure it does; it lists the charges that the offender is being held in custody for, as well as any detainers by the Department of Corrections.

  2. I pray that this program works. In theory it should save us money. I mean less inmates should cost less money. And it should give inmates an incentive to reform them selves while in. Instead of having a “what the heck, I’m here for my full sentence attitude.” That ALL seems good to me. Good for taxpayers. Good for staff. Good for inmates.

    But yes, the few hard core scammers may just ruin it for everyone. Just like they do everywhere else in life.

  3. Zach,
    I can’t believe you think 25% is good, how long have these have these offenders been released from prison? It appears from the MJS articles that these inmates screwed up pretty quickly after getting out of prison.

    1. Nick, take a look at the data. Recidivism rates top 50% in most places, so 25% is certainly improvement. Obviously 25% recidivism means there’s still progress to be made, but these things don’t happen overnight.

      1. Zach, you are right when you say that these things dont happen overnight but then why are you so focused on the recidivism rate when this program has only been in place for two months?

      2. Ask Jessica McBride that question, since she’s the one up in arms about the program, along with the other conservative squawkers in Milwaukee. The fact is, McBride’s assertion that 25% of the offenders released early to Milwaukee reoffended is questionable, considering the fact that they weren’t sent back to prison – they were just held temporarily for rules violations.

        1. Lets be honest here Zach, if these individuals are struggling to follow the rules this soon after being released what is the likelihood that they are going to succeed. What I am attempting to point out here is that it is far to early to tell if this program is going to be successful.

          1. Joe, I’m not arguing that it’s too early to tell whether the program will be successful or not, but in pointing out that “25%” of the offenders released early to Milwaukee had reoffended, Jessica McBride was making the argument that the program has already failed.

            I’ll also note that while it’s certainly troubling that the offenders are having difficulty following their rules so soon after release, it’s important to sanction them in a manner that’s commensurate with their rules violations. For instance, in a followup piece, Jessica McBride noted one of the individuals had a drug issue, so drug treatment certainly seems like the most appropriate option, as opposed to reincarceration (with a strong likelihood the offender won’t get treatment in prison).

  4. Joe, I completely agree with you on this. This 25% recidivism study is a Joke. Zach, are you in favor of allowing violent prisoners to be released back to our streets? I sure don’t want these guys living next door to me. They are in prison for a reason and belong there. I think Zach that it’s way to early to see if this program has worked. My guess it’s going to be a complete disaster and be careful in the city of Milwaukee this summer because you’re going to see a jump in crime because of this…

    1. Nick, I’ve made it abundantly clear I’m not in support of letting individuals with violent felony convictions out of prison early, but my point in posting the original entry (a point which seems to be lost on folks) is that it’s simply too early to label the program a failure, as Jessica McBride implied it is (presumably to score political points).

      I’m in complete agreement that the program needs to be given time before it’s evaluated and determined to be a success or failure.

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