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Targeting Federal Resources on Recidivists - An Empirical View

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 46 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1983) Pages: 10-20
Date Published
11 pages
Analysis of Federal recidivism patterns indicates substantial opportunity to identify dangerous, repeat offenders prospectively using a simple statistical assessment procedure; analysis of survey data on current Federal prosecution policy shows no explicit guidelines that attempt to do so.
The analysis examines a data base describing a 5-year followup period for 1,700 offenders convicted of a cross section of Federal offenses and released from prison or other Federal custody in 1970. It estimates the statistical association between the factors known about the 1,700 offenders at the time of their release in 1970 and the likelihood of an offender's rearrest within 60 months. This analysis revealed four especially strong factors of recidivism: prior record (including length of criminal career, number of arrests within the past 5 years, longest term of incarceration previously served, and number of prior convictions), youthfulness, use of drug (including heroin use or heavy use of alcohol), and the nature of the current offense. Offenders were then selected for special handling if their profiles showed that they were at risk of recidivating within 40 months. A total of 200 (12 percent) of the original 1,700 offenders were thus identified as career criminals. Of these 170 (85 percent) were rearrested during the 5-year followup period. Reducing crime and jail and prison populations by using a strategy of selective incapacitation can be achieved by changes in Federal prosecution guidelines, more cooperation between U.S. attorneys and local prosecutors in each Federal district, the use of statistical prediction to support the exercise of discretion in selecting cases and targeting resources on them, and better management of cases (i.e., victims, witnesses, and evidence) selected for prosecution to increase conviction rates. Footnotes and two exhibits are included.

Date Published: January 1, 1983