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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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