Recidivism Rates Flat When Drug Convicts Were Freed Early

Federal drug offenders who received early releases from prison under a 2015 policy change did not commit significantly more new offenses than those who served their full time, says a new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The study compared 7,121 offenders who got sentence reductions and 7,132 who served their full terms. The commission found “no statistically significant difference in the recidivism rates” of the two groups.

The study concluded that one reason for little difference between the groups was “the careful consideration of [the commission’s release] criteria by judges — particularly public safety considerations” in deciding who should be freed. Those who got reduced sentences actually had a slightly lower recidivism rate, 27.9 percent over three years after release compared to 30.5 percent for the other group. The similarity in the recidivism rates held true across all drug types. The highest recidivism rates were recorded among crack cocaine offenders, and the lowest among powder cocaine offenders. Since the reduction in recommended sentences went into effect, federal judges have reduced 30,852 sentences, cutting terms on average by 17.2 percent, from 146 to 121 months behind bars.

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