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42.7 percent

April 15, 2011

New Jersey has seen a significant reduction in the rate of recidivism -- the return to prison or re-arrest of former prisoners -- to 42.7 percent, according to a recent study by the Pew Center on the States.

The center looked at the experience of 33 states and how released prisoners in 1999 and 2004 behaved in the subsequent three years. It found that between 1999 and 2002, New Jersey’s released prisoners returned to incarceration 48.2 percent of the time, while in 2004-2007, they were reincarcerated only 42.7 percent of the time. Of those reincarcerations, 15 percent were due to new crimes, while 27 percent were technical violations, mostly of parole. This means 57 percent did not return to prison.

New Jersey was cited as the only eastern state that saw such a drop. (The other states with a significant decrease were Louisiana, Michigan, Kansas, Utah and Oregon.) Nevertheless, New York (40 percent) and Pennsylvania (40 percent) have generally lower rates of recidivism.

Nationally, the rate of recidivism was 43.3 percent. The study points out that there are many hidden reasons for low or high recidivism rates, including parole laws -- since many prison returns are due to parole violations -- and sentencing practices. States that typically give sentences, rather than probation, for minor or drug offenses might find that they have lower recidivism rates since the low-risk offenders are included in the statistics.

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