Common Indicators of Recidivism Used in Program and Policy Evaluations (Issue Brief)

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Common Indicators of Recidivism Used in Program and Policy Evaluations (Issue Brief)

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For two decades, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has invested substantial funding toward programs serving justice-involved individuals. Among its recent investments, DOL awarded over $243 million in Reentry Projects (RP) grant programs between 2017 and 2019 to improve participants’ employment and justice outcomes. DOL prioritized awarding grants to programs that were evidence-informed, and many went to experienced providers. They were awarded across a broad range of intermediaries and non-profit community-based organizations serving a total of 17,361 participants across 34 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. RP grants were 36-39 months long and were at different phases when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. RP grantees served a total of 9,098 adults (individuals over 24) and 8,263 young adults (individuals between ages 18 and 24) after their release from jail or prison.

In 2017, the Chief Evaluation Office, in collaboration with the Employment and Training Administration funded the Reentry Project Grants Evaluation. This implementation and impact evaluation aims to identify and evaluate promising practices used in reentry employment programs, which are comprehensive strategies to address the range of challenges formerly incarcerated adults and young adults who have been involved in the justice system face in making a successful transition back to the community.

This brief reviewed the literature from 2000 to 2022 to develop an understanding of common recidivism indicators that have been used in criminal justice research, as well as the strengths and challenges of each indicator. Additionally, this brief analyzed common data sources for recidivism indicators, and the strengths and challenges of each. While this brief offers insight into different ways to understand and measure recidivism throughout the field and in DOL studies, evaluators may question the feasibility of using these indicators given their constraints such as the ability to access various data sources and link different datasets together. Future work should consider criminal justice data accessibility and availability issues and alternative data sources that can supplement criminal justice data.