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In this report, we examine recidivism rates for close to 70,000 adult offenders who released from prison in Washington State over a 17-year-period. Our analysis reveals quite notable and favorable recidivism trends.
Can knowledge about “what works” to reduce crime be used to help states achieve a win-win outcome of lower crime and lower taxpayer spending?
The Washington State Institute for Public Policy has constructed an analytical tool for the Washington legislature to help identify evidence-based sentencing and programming policy options to reduce crime and taxpayer criminal justice costs. With additional financial assistance from the MacArthur Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts contracted with WSIPP to: (1) develop the tool, (2) apply it to a policy process currently underway in Washington State, and (3) help Pew make the tool available to other interested states.
This report describes the tool (as of August 2010) in detail and illustrates its use by applying it to two hypothetical sentencing policy options in Washington State. The tool assesses benefits, costs, and risks. Results from the two hypothetical examples point to possible win-win policy combinations.
Can knowledge about “what works” to reduce crime be used to help a state achieve a win-win outcome of: (1) lower crime, and (2) lower taxpayer spending? This progress report describes the work underway by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to develop an analytical tool for Washington, and perhaps other states, to identify evidence-based policy options to reduce crime rates and lower the taxpayer costs of the criminal justice system.
The Pew Charitable Trusts contracted with WSIPP to: (1) develop the tool, (2) apply it to the policy process currently underway in Washington State, and (3) help Pew make the tool available to other states.
This progress report describes the structure of the tool being constructed. The current plan calls for initial estimates by August 2010. In addition, the tool will be used to support the work of the legislatively directed study being conducted by the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission.
The 1999 Offender Accountability Act (OAA) directs the Department of Corrections (DOC) to perform a formal assessment of each offender’s risk for recidivism and then to allocate agency resources accordingly. The law also requires the Institute to evaluate the OAA and provide results by 2010.
This report presents our findings on whether the OAA has had an effect on recidivism. On average, offenders today have a greater risk for recidivism than historically; the general rise in recidivism over the last 20 years is largely explained by the increased underlying risk of DOC’s offender population. Since the OAA was implemented, however, something favorable has happened to cause recidivism rates to be lower than expected. Unfortunately, our statistical analysis does not allow us to identify whether this beneficial change can be attributed specifically to the OAA or other policies, or other unknown factors that occurred during the same time period. Regardless, the good news from our evaluation is that, after at least a decade of increasing recidivism, Washington is now beginning to observe improvements in adult felony recidivism.
After the 2009 Legislative session, the Institute was asked to participate in a Housing Focus Group, and provide a summary of research findings on the effectiveness of housing programs for populations at risk of homelessness. In this report, we examine the impact of housing supports for persons with mental illness and for ex-offenders returning to the community following incarceration.
In this initial review of the literature, we found:
• Housing assistance for persons with mental illness significantly reduced homelessness, hospitalization, and crime when compared to similar individuals who did not participate in a housing program.
• Reentry programs that included housing support for the general population of ex-offenders did not affect the incidence of recidivism.
• Reentry programs for serious violent ex-offenders significantly reduced recidivism.
The Sex Offender Policy Board asked the Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of sex offender registration and community notification laws on reducing crime. We conducted a systematic review of all research evidence and located nine rigorous evaluations. Some studies address whether the laws influence “specific” deterrence—the effect of a law on the recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders. The remaining studies analyze “general” deterrence—the effect of a law on sex offense rates of the general public, as well as recidivism rates of convicted sex offenders.
At this time, we tentatively conclude that existing research does not offer much policy guidance on the specific deterrent effect of registration/notification laws. For general deterrence, there is some indication that registration laws lower sex offense rates in the public at large. Additional research is necessary before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
The Institute was contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Corrections’ “Going Home Project.” The program was designed to transition younger, high-risk, violent offenders into the community. To date, not enough time has passed to conduct an outcome evaluation with a comparison group and 36-month follow-up. This interim report outlines our research design and provides 18-month recidivism rates for program participants.
The 2003 Washington State Legislature passed ESSB 5990, which increased “earned early release time” for certain types of offenders. The bill authorizes the Washington State Department of Corrections to release certain eligible offenders earlier if they have demonstrated good behavior in prison.
The Institute was directed by the Legislature to evaluate the effect of the 2003 law. Our overall recidivism findings remain consistent with those in the original November 2008 report; we strengthened the cost-benefit analysis for this revised version and find that the law generates benefits of $1.88 per dollar of cost.
In 2006, long-term forecasts indicated that Washington faced the need to construct several new prisons in the following two decades. Since new prisons are costly, the legislature directed the Institute to project whether there are “evidence-based” options that can reduce the future need for prison beds, save money for state and local taxpayers, and contribute to lower crime rates. As part of a systematic review of the research evidence, we found and analyzed 545 comparison-group evaluations of adult corrections, juvenile corrections, and prevention programs to determine what works, if anything, to reduce crime. We then estimated the benefits and costs of many of these evidence-based options and found that some evidence-based programs produce favorable returns on investment. This paper presents our findings and describes our meta-analytic and economic methods.
The 1999 Offender Accountability Act (OAA) affects how the Department of Corrections (DOC) supervises convicted felony offenders in the community. The Institute was directed by the legislature to evaluate the OAA. The OAA requires DOC to supervise offenders according to their risk for future offending, which is estimated using instruments that classify offenders into groups with similar characteristics.
The Institute developed a "static risk" instrument, which DOC began using as part of its Risk Level Classification (RLC) system in 2008. This new system replaced DOC's previous Risk Management Identification (RMI) system, which had been in use since the OAA was implemented. Comparing recidivism rates of offenders classified under the new RLC and the old RMI systems, this report finds the new system to have better predictive accuracy than the prior system.