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The behavior of a repeat or habitual criminal. A measurement of the rate at which offenders commit other crimes, either by arrest or conviction baselines, after being released from incarceration.

Both state and federal laws have been enacted in an attempt to reduce the number of repeat or habitual offenses. For example, Washington's habitual criminal statute imposes a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment for persons convicted of a second felony, third misdemeanor, or third petit larceny. Furthermore, in the event that a person is convicted of a third felony, fifth misdemeanor, or a fifth petit Larceny, the statute imposes a life sentence (Wash. Rev. Code § 9.92.090 [1996]).

Another state that has enacted a recidivism statute is California. California's recidivism statute, more commonly known as the three-strikes law, increases sentencing when the recidivist commits additional crimes. If the criminal is convicted of a second felony, the sentence doubles the sentence of the first-time felon, and if convicted of a third violent crime or serious felony, the person will be sentenced to triple the sentence of a first-time felon, or 25 years imprisonment, whichever is greater (Cal. Penal Code § 667 [West 1996]). The three-strikes law was passed in 1994, after a voter Referendum received 71 percent support. The ballot measure was prompted by the 1993 abduction-murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in Petaluma, California. The killer, Richard Allen Davis, was a twice-convicted kidnapper who had been on Parole after serving only half of a 16-year prison term for the second Kidnapping. Because of the way the law is written, however, offenders with prior criminal records are being put behind bars for life for non-felony offenses such as petty theft and shoplifting.

In March 2003, the Supreme Court ruled on two separate cases Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 123 S. Ct. 1179, 155 L. Ed. 2d 108 (2003), and Lockyer v. Andrade,, 538 U.S. 63, 123 S. Ct. 1166, 155 L. Ed. 2d 144 (2003), both involving California's law providing for mandatory prison terms of 25 years to life for those convicted for the third time of a felony. The Court failed to overturn the law, despite arguments that the sentences of those challenging the law constituted cruel and usual punishment in violation of the Eight Amendment. The federal government and 26 states now have a three strikes-type law, imposing as much as a life prison term for criminals convicted of a third felony.

Congress also responded to the recidivism rates in the United States by enacting the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Pub. L. No. 103-322, 108 Stat. 1796). This act mandates life imprisonment for the commission of a serious violent felony or a combination of two or more serious felonies or drug offenses.

There are many ideas on how to solve the problem of recidivism. Some of these include requiring literacy programs in penal institutions, electronic monitoring of home confinement, greater use of halfway houses, and "boot camp" programs consisting of military marching, discipline, physical training, work, classes, and drug and alcohol treatment for young, first-time offenders.

Further readings

Brooks, Justin. 1994. "Keeping the Jailhouse Lawyer Out of Jail." Criminal Justice 9 (summer).

Burns, Jerald C., and Gennaro F. Vito. 1995. "An Impact Analysis of the Alabama Boot Camp Program." Federal Probation 59 (March).

Farrington, David P., and Roger Tarling, eds. 1985. Prediction in Criminology. Albany, N.Y.: State Univ. of New York Press.

McClain, Meredith. 1996. "'Three Strikes and You're Out': The Solution to the Repeat Offender Problem?" Seton Hall Legislative Journal 20 (July).

Potts, Jeff. 1993. "American Penal Institutions and Two Alternative Proposals for Punishment." South Texas Law Review 34 (October).

Zamble, Edward, and Vernon L. Quinsey. 2001. The Criminal Recidivism Process. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press.


Determinate Sentence.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


habitual relapse into crime.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
Prison populations do not drive crime rates, and longer prison stays do not reduce recidivism rates. The experiences of several states show that prison populations and crime rates can be reduced.
If decarceration is not accompanied by an increase in effective programming resources, then recidivism rates will almost assuredly stay the same.
Even though recidivism has been defined in a variety of measures, the recidivism rate has been commonly used to measure the effectiveness of correction educational programs.
If these states--Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas--reduced their recidivism rates by 10 percent, they could collectively save more than $470 million a year.
TABLE 2 Recidivism Rates for Treatment and Control Groups Reoffence Treatment Control Interval Group Group f % SR f % SR No reoffenses 72 60.0 1.1 55 45.8 -1.1 3 months 24 20.0 1.0 15 12.5 -1.0 6 months 6 5.0 -0.9 11 9.2 0.9 12 months 9 7.5 -1.8 24 20.0 1.8 18 months 6 5.0 -1.0 12 10.0 1.0 24 months 3 2.5 0.0 3 2.5 0.0 Note.
In contrast, among the matched comparison group, the recidivism rate for the African American group was significantly higher (by 12 percent) than that for the white group [[chi square] (1, 10,552) = 306.5, p = .001].
The recidivism rate was compared only for black and white ex-inmates because fewer than 5% of male 2003 ACJ ex-inmates were not black or white men.
Similar patterns have also impressed legislators in California, where the recidivism rate among released inmates who had participated in prison education pro grams at one institution--Ironwood State Prison--was 20 percent, compared with 70 percent for the general prison population.
The remaining 23 percent eventually got released from prison, and post-release had about a 30 percent recidivism rate. I believe this axiom holds true today across the country.
In the Whatcom County Teen Court Program, repeat offenders had a lower recidivism rate than did first-time Court Diversion offenders.
* the national recidivism rate remains virtually unchanged, with about half of released inmates returning to jail or prison within three years.
"In a series of reports to Corrections officials, Quirk indicated that the three year recidivism rate from the biofeedback unit (using these techniques) had never been more then 45% and in some groups had fallen to 15%.