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Washington's Offender Accountability Act: Final Report on Recidivism Outcomes

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Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos, Robert Barnoski - January 2010

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.

Report ID: 10-01-1201
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Impacts of Housing Supports: Persons with Mental Illness and Ex-Offenders

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Marna Miller, Irene Ngugi - November 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-11-1901
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Does Sex Offender Registration and Notification Reduce Crime? A Systematic Review of the Research Literature

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Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos - June 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-06-1101
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Going Home: The Washington State Reentry Project
Interim Report: 18-Month Recidivism Rates for Program Participants

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Elizabeth Drake - June 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-06-1201
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Increased Earned Release From Prison: Impacts of a 2003 Law on Recidivism and Crime Costs, Revised

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Elizabeth Drake, Robert Barnoski, Steve Aos - April 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-04-1201
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Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Crime and Criminal Justice Costs: Implications in Washington State

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Elizabeth Drake, Steve Aos, Marna Miller - April 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-00-1201
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New Risk Instrument for Offenders Improves Classification Decisions

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Elizabeth Drake, Robert Barnoski - March 2009

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.

Report ID: 09-03-1201
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The Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender Program: Four-Year Felony Recidivism and Cost Effectiveness

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Jim Mayfield - February 2009

In 1999, legislation was passed to better identify and provide additional mental health treatment for mentally ill offenders who were released from prison, who pose a threat to public safety, and agree to participate in the program. A “Dangerous Mentally Ill Offender” (DMIO) is defined by the legislation as a person with a mental disorder who has been determined to be dangerous to self or others.

As part of its legislative mandate, the Institute has published a series of reports that evaluate the DMIO program. Reports published in 2005, 2007, and 2008 demonstrated that the DMIO program significantly reduced felony recidivism, and this 2009 follow-up report finds that reductions in felony recidivism were sustained at the 4-year mark. The benefit-cost analysis in this report indicates that the reductions in DMIO recidivism generated greater financial benefits than program costs—a ratio of approximately $1.64 in benefits for every public dollar spent.

Report ID: 09-02-1901
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Increasing Earned Release from Prison: Impacts of 2003 Law on Recidivism and Criminal Justice Costs

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Elizabeth Drake, Robert Barnoski - November 2008

The 2003 Washington State Legislature passed a bill that increased “earned release time” for certain types of offenders. The bill authorizes the Washington State Department of Corrections to release eligible offenders earlier if they have demonstrated good behavior in prison.

The 2003 Legislature directed the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to evaluate whether the enacted changes in earned release have affected recidivism rates. This report is divided into four sections: background information,evaluation design, recidivism findings, and cost-benefit analysis.

Report ID: 08-11-1201
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Risk Assessment Instruments to Predict Recidivism of Sex Offenders: Practices in Washington State

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Tali Klima, Roxanne Lieb - June 2008

This paper reviews policies and practices regarding assessment of sex offenders for risk of reoffense among public agencies and private treatment providers in Washington State. Specifically, we reviewed the use of risk assessment instruments, which gauge the likelihood that individual sex offenders will reoffend.

We found that a diverse set of instruments are employed by public and private entities in making decisions about sex offenders. These decisions include sentencing, facility assignment, treatment, release, public notification, and community supervision. As expected, there was greater variability in risk assessment practices among private treatment providers than public agencies.

Report ID: 08-06-1101
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