This study drew on precepts from the street gang literature in testing whether patterns of recidivism differed by official and survey measures of current, former, and non-gang status.
Reentry experiences for the 600,000 people released annually from federal and state prisons differ vastly. This study contends that gangs, which rose to prominence alongside mass incarceration, are an overlooked source of variation in reentry experiences. The study linked data from a representative sample of 802 prisoners interviewed prior to their release in 2016 to 36 months of post-release arrest, conviction, and imprisonment records. Survival curves and multivariable discrete-time survival analysis were used to test for differential patterns of recidivism. The conditional risk of recidivism varied by gang status. Current gang members maintained the greatest risk for all recidivism types. Although former gang members were more likely to get arrested than non-gang members, there were no differences in conviction and imprisonment. Official and survey gang measures mostly told the same story, although official measures appeared to be more reliable determinants of recidivism than survey measures. The study concludes that distinguishing former from current and non-gang members is important for policy, practice, and research. These findings renew calls to understand and respond to social groups and networks like gangs for prisoner reentry. (publisher abstract modified)