We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Reincarcerated: The Experiences of Men Returning to Massachusetts Prisons

April 2008



The rising incarceration rate in America over the past quarter century has resulted in more prisoners being admitted to and released from prison each year. In 2005 alone, more than 698,000 state and federal prisoners returned to communities across the country, a four-fold increase over the past two decades.1 Incarceration and release trends in Massachusetts generally mirror this growth.2 Between 1980 and 2006, the Massachusetts state adult prison population increased more than threefold—from 2,754 to 9,405 individuals.3 The number of people being released from Massachusetts’ prisons has also increased substantially. In 1980, 1,015 individuals were released from the state’s prisons. Over the past two-and-a-half decades, this number more than doubled to 2,337 individuals.4

The phenomenon of prisoner reentry has been increasingly recognized as an important public safety issue not only because of the increasing volume of releases from prison, but particularly because of persistently high recidivism rates. Nationally, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that over two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested for a new offense within three years of their release, and over half are back in prison serving time for a new offense or a technical violation of their parole.5

Recent Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) figures6 show that three-year recidivism rates among Massachusetts prisoners, as measured by a return to prison, were lower than the national average, though still substantial.7 Thirty-nine percent of DOC prisoners released in 1999 were returned to a state, county, or federal facility within three years of release.8 The majority of those who recidivated in Massachusetts were reincarcerated for conviction of a new crime, but more than a third were returned for technical violations of parole.9

Research on recidivism has generally focused on static predictors of recidivism and the characteristics of career criminals. It is now widely known, for instance, that a young age at the time of first offense and a higher number of previous arrests are among the strongest predictors of recidivism, and that a small fraction of offenders are responsible for the majority of crime.10 Research also shows that persistent career offenders are more likely to be drug users.11 In addition to substance abuse, the emerging prisoner reentry literature documents the enormous challenges of housing, employment, and health among this population.12

What is missing from recidivism research is an understanding of the processes that lead a released prisoner to reoffend—in other words, why he or she commits a new crime. The postrelease circumstances and experiences of released prisoners as well as their previous incarceration experiences are critical to understanding the recidivism process. Because this information is best gathered through personal interviews, here we present findings from field research with recently reincarcerated prisoners as well as parole officers. This report attempts to deepen our understanding of recidivism in Massachusetts and factors that contribute to returning to prison.

..For the Rest of the Paper.. by Lisa E. Brooks, Amy L. Solomon, Rhiana Kohl, Jenny W. L. Osborne, Jay Reid, Susan M. McDonald, Hollie Matthews Hoover

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