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This essay exam must be submitted in the grade book using Word software as required in the syllabus and by UMUC.  Please remember to avoid the use of personal pronouns (I, me, you, we, etc.) in your essay.  This issue has been discussed initially in the syllabus and repeated in numerous areas of the course content. The use of such pronouns will reflect upon the tone of the essay up to a deduction of a maximum of five percent (5%) which is the equivalent of 1.25 points. As with the length of the paper, this deduction will be taken at the beginning of the scoring process and then other deductions will apply.  The paper will be done completely n New Times Roman with 12-point font and double-spaced.  Do not insert multiple hard returns between paragraphs.

            This examination will follow a broad APA outline.  As stated, do not use additional subheading underneath each section. This outline organization is provided for guidance and not to be duplicated as sections in the final essay.
Title page.  Insure that there is a title or cover page as with the course essays.  This can be page 1 of the final or the title page can be left unnumbered and the pagination can start with the first page of actual text starting with the introductory paragraph(s).
Introduction (Again, Do not use this subheading introduction. This is for descriptive purposes only!)
In your introduction paragraphs, answer at least these three questions:

Why is the topic of outcome measures and recidivism important to correctional administrators?
What are some of the key outcome measures both during incarceration and after release in addition to recidivism, used in correctional program evaluation?
Why is recidivism the most widely accepted outcome measure?
Why is recidivism arguably the most important of the outcome measures?
Since we are not conducting original research there will be no method section.
Discussion (Do not use this subheading of “discussion.”  This is meant to explain what should be in the body of the discussion.  No subheadings!) 
What are various definitions of recidivism or measures used in recidivism studies?  Cite some individual studies that utilize differing definitions. Insure you provide and cite the reference source for at least two (2) competing definitions of recidivism. Do not use a generic dictionary or web dictionary for these references.  Use peer reviewed, academic or refereed journal studies for these definitions.  You may also use research found in the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), The National Crime Information Center (NCIS) or the National Institute of Corrections (NIC).
What are some dimensions on which these definitions vary?  
How do the differing definitions or dimensions affect the findings or decision-making?
Conclusion (Do not use this subheading “conclusion.”  This is meant to reinforce the conclusions that are drawn from the essay.  Conclusions are included in the final few paragraphs or pages of an academic work. 
Based on the research, what guidance can be given to future researchers on defining recidivism?
What guidance should be  given to correctional administrators and others who “consume” evaluative research concerning  what consumers  should be cautions of or look for in the research under review and possibly intended for utilization?
Conclusion (Do not use this subheading “conclusion.”  This is meant to reinforce the conclusions that are drawn from the essay.  Conclusions are included in the final few paragraphs or pages of an academic work. 
Based on the research, what guidance can be given to future researchers on defining recidivism?
What guidance should be  given to correctional administrators and others who “consume” evaluative research concerning  what consumers  should be cautions of or look for in the research under review and possibly intended for utilization?
What definition of recidivism that should a progressive and efficient prison system adopt?  (This is a mandatory element of the conclusion since it is really the crux of this essay;  remember not to use personal pronouns such as “I,” “me,” “you,” etc.)
Why have you arrived at this specific definition of recidivism? (please be sure to relate it to how the definition affects the issues discussed in the body of the essay)
References   (You will have a reference page as we have covered throughout the semester)
This essay exam must be submitted in the grade book. To turn in an assignment, click on the assignment title link. Follow the labeling directions and other logistical information in the Syllabus and Housekeeping documents you read earlier.  When submitting your assignments, please note that you may submit an assignment repeatedly until your instructor reads or grades it. Once the status becomes Marked as Read or Graded, you cannot submit changes unless your instructor returns your assignment to you as Ungraded. Assignment links will disappear from your Assignment Folder after they are graded and will reappear in your Portfolio.  Remember that your essay must be submitted by the due date unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. This is particularly important for the final exam since the semester ends three days after the final is due and grades must be submitted to the University in a timely fashion.  For grading and submission information, please refer to the syllabus you have reviewed and printed out or click on the “grading information” under the syllabus and review the Grading Information and Criteria which describes further the issues regarding format, timeliness, submission method, etc.

The final exam is worth 25% of the total class grade and thus it requires that the student put forth the best effort possible with a deliverable that demonstrates graduate level writing and research ability.  The paper should be written using proper American Psychological Association (APA) format.  There are a few exceptions to the APA format that will apply to this essay:
Do not write an “abstract” of the essay.  An abstract merely wastes space on a short essay such as this that is not designed for publication.
Do not use subheadings in this essay.
This essay examines how outcomes or success is defined in the correctional literature.  There are many outcome measures, but this essay will focus on only one measure: recidivism.  Recidivism has become the most accepted outcome measure. Why has this become the most accepted outcome?  Many studies utilize recidivism as a measure they do not always define it in the same way. Why are there alternative definitions of this term?   This examination  should answer these two questions and additionally explore  the various definitions of recidivism and the dimensions that impact each definition, how changing the definition impacts the results found and recommendations for administrators in reading program outcome studies and for researchers on the future. In the conclusion of the essay, insure that a preferred definition of recidivism is arrived at that you would consider adopting in the measurement of program outcomes if you were the administrator of a correctional system.  The outcome must be consistent with the mission, vision and strategic plan of your agency.  Please remember not to restate the assignment parameters discussed in this document at the beginning of the essay. That would merely waste valuable space in the essay.  Simply begin with the thesis statements in the first paragraph or two and move on to develop the essay.
The submitted examination must be a minimum of 10 pages. This examination should be minimally 10 pages in length, double-spaced and adhere to all relevant APA guidelines as previously mentioned, and submitted according to the directions given in your syllabus and the guidance you have received.   An essay that is less than 10 pages will be unacceptable and receive a deduction of ten percent (10%) which is the equivalent of 2.5 points for every page less than 10 full pages of text. The cover sheet and the reference page(s) do not apply to this total.   If any deduction is taken for a paper that does not meet the minimum requirement for length, this will be the starting grade point, and then the paper will be read and deductions taken from that score. If, for an example, a paper is submitted that includes only  9 pages of text, then the starting grade is reduced from 25 points to  22.5  points and any  further deductions will be taken from that total possible score  as the paper is read and scored.    Please do not write an essay greater than 15 pages exclusive of the title page and reference material.  A rich topic such as this could easily result in a very lengthy essay, but it is important to be able to focus and complete this assignment within the parameters that are provided.  As previously stated, the cover page and reference age are not included in the page count.  You are required to utilize and provide at least five academic references (peer review, refereed, or academic journals) in this essay as defined by the ulrichsweb resource that can be found in the library link and is discussed in the course content. The five (5) articles selected to meet this requirement must not be from the same journal. Once that minimum is met, articles from the same journal may be utilized freely.  Remember to revisit the reference provided in the course content and conferences regarding the definition of peer review, refereed and academic journals before completing this assignment.  There shall be no use of web site references in this essay.  This is purely an exercise in academic research and graduate level thinking and writing ability.

This examination will be graded according to the grading rubric provided for in the syllabus after any mandatory deductions for length, peer reviewed journals and the use of personal pronouns are taken as discussed above.  
Martinson, R. (1974, Spring).  What works? questions and answers about prison reform. 
            The   Public Interest, 35, 22-54.
Summary of provisions of Second Chance Act.  (2008, May). Federal Sentencing Reporter, 20 
            (4), 279-280.  DOI: 10.1525/fsr.2008.20.4.279 
Start Date


Subject Essay Writing Pages 12 Style APA


Defining Recidivis

The last few decades have seen an increase in incarceration and re-offending rates the world over. As such, a particular area that has become of growing concern is how to successfully integrate back in the society those who have served their jail/prison terms. Initially, the response to public frustration over high crime rates was focusing on incarceration and making it a crucial element of crime policy. It was thought the best way to tackle crime was locking up offenders and keeping them behind bars, thereby facilitating public safety. However, new concerns arose over high re-offense rates. There was a shift in mindset as correctional administrators and policymakers paid attention to certain programs that aimed at helping people with criminal behaviors succeed in the society following their release from jail. Against the backdrop of these developments, the concept of recidivism (which is the main subject of this paper) gains relevance. Broadly, it is defined as reengagement in crime or criminal behavior following an intervention or sanction such as diversion, punishment, or conviction. Importantly, it is a crucial performance measure for agencies and programs within the criminal justice system. In spite of the level to which recidivism has been elevated in crime policy circles, inconsistencies exists as to its definition and measurement. This paper discusses recidivism and looks at how the said inconsistencies affect program effectiveness.

Indeed, the topic of outcome measures and recidivism is important to correctional administrators as there is need to check system or program performance. Importantly, recidivism emerges as an inherent negative indicator of this performance. While it is recognized as an undesirable outcome, a central objective of correctional administrators is to reduce it. Traditionally, it has been the goal of the criminal justice system to reduce recidivism and delinquency. Therefore, contextual outcome measures are significant for preventing re-offending in the future which is an objective that many agencies within the justice system share. Recidivism has specifically become a crucial and preferred outcome measure because its data is easier to obtain as opposed to that of other outcomes. While access to data on arrest, re-incarnation, adjudication, and conviction may be somehow problematic, justice system agencies record them systematically. Collecting data such as that on educational achievement, stable relationships, and family functioning may be hindered by challenges that include but are not limited to legal provisions for confidentiality/privacy. The named elements (educational achievement, stability of social relationships and family functioning) are some of the key outcome measures used in correctional program evaluation. Maltz (2001) has argued that “recidivism is the most common measure of correctional effectiveness” because of the convenience it presents. Away from convenience, it has become increasingly important for policy makers and correctional administrators to compare rates of recidivism across different jurisdictions. More often than not, these comparisons help in revealing competiveness across different states and show a desire to hold agencies within the justice system accountable for contextual outcomes even as they seek to discharge their services to offenders and their families.

Recidivism studies assume substantive definitions and present their results each in its own context. If two competing definitions have to be looked at, such would have to be the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ definitions that have been presented by the United States Sentencing Commission (2004).  As this commission explains, the former includes any of the following events that may occur during the initial two years of an offender back in the society: 1) re-conviction (for a new offense) 2) re-arrest with lack of adequate disposition information that would guarantee conviction 3) supervision revocation (a probation or parole rule is violated). The secondary definition can be conceptualized a conviction-only definition. It is limited in the sense that it focuses only on re-conviction developments during offender follow-up period, more precisely two years after release. Notably, this definition measures recidivism “as the first occurring re-conviction for a new offence during the initial two years back in the community” (United States Sentencing Commission, 2004). A question of interest that may arise is: which of these definitions is more reliable and plausible? The aforementioned commission emphasizes that most studies (including its own) cite rates of recidivism separately even as may be informed by the two definitions. It argues that the primary definition “is a more reliable and valid measure for the probability of actual re-offending because of its inclusiveness and its high association with actual re-offending” (United States Sentencing Commission 2004). Most importantly, it must be noted that a strong correlation exists between these two definitions. For this reason, research findings emanating from studies/analyses that use either of them are almost similar and lead to conclusions that are nearly identical. In spite of this, a difference exists in terms of the magnitude of comparative findings.

As already implied, inconsistencies are noted in the manner recidivism has been defined in criminal justice and social integration literature. As such, the different definitions impose limits on how programs, states, and agencies interpret and employ the findings of different studies that have investigated recidivism. While there is no consensus on how recidivism should be defined, a definition that is broadly accepted is that it is “reengaging in criminal behavior after receiving a sanction or intervention” (Elderbroon, & King, 2014). More often than not, it is calculated and measured as a rate and sometimes as a percentage of individuals in a given group meeting defined criteria in a given time frame, for instance prisoners who completed their term and were released in Washington DC in 2016. Notably, contextual definitions can be quite different when the time, group, or criteria are changed. Irrespective of the definition that a certain study may choose to adopt, it is quite obvious that errors will always exist. Imperatively, the reasonability of these errors is not in doubt and any definition would tend to underestimate real rates of recidivism as only official records will show crime, arrest, and conviction rates. So that studies may more effectively weigh outcomes against one another, each has to clearly make its definition known as well as the measure informing such a definition.

Another issue that comes to the fore in the current conversation is the fact that prison and jail populations are not the same. As LoBuglio and Lyman (2006) inform, how recidivism is defined and its rates measured requires that certain considerations are taken into account as may be specific to a prison/jail population of interest. Even where focus is on the rates of a single correctional unit/facility, different considerations are still necessary since such a population may be constantly changing. A particular aspect of the implied change in population is the fact there are individuals who are in prison and serving shorter sentences and are therefore being let out more often as opposed to those in prison whose confinement period is longer. In addition, it is possible that individuals in jail are either awaiting trial (therefore subsequent sentencing) or could be transferred to other correctional/holding facilities. Taking into account the explained differences in population composition, it is important to thoroughly examine and choose how recidivism is measured.

As expected, there are different ways of measuring recidivism. To this effect, it has been argued that there is no precisely right measure for this phenomenon (Elderbroon, & King, 2014). Depending on the measure being employed, different criteria are used to decide which offender is a recidivist and who is not. Most of the time, correctional administrators opt to consider the period within which an offender of interest has re-offended and gone back to prison, say two, three, or four years. It is possible that an offender is arrested with the possibility of being convicted a new or he or she goes back to prison for possibly for violating parole or probation rules. Other measures that gain relevance in the recidivism context include re-arrest, imprisonment, re-arraignment, re-incarceration, and reconviction just to mention but a few. A majority of studies tend to include violation on parole and probation only in instances where they lead to the offender going back to prison, yet others would rightly prefer to classify it on its own as a revocation of supervision. As for reconviction, it can be conceptualized as the occasion when a decision is made by the court that the offender has indeed committed a new crime. Additionally, re-incarceration refers to the arrest that eventually culminates in a jail or prison sentence. Copper and colleagues (2014) define imprisonment as an arrest that culminates in a prison sentence. Another crucial measure is re-arrest recidivism which refers to mere arrest where substantial disposition information that could lead to conviction lacks. After all, is it not universally agreed that being arrested does not necessarily mean the person is guilty of the crime for which he or she has been arrested? The last of the measures mentioned, re-arraignment, refers to appearances in court. (LoBuglio, & Lyman, 2006).

Misconceptions exist on recidivism use and measurement. One of them arises from contextual alternate definitions depending on the particular stage of the justice process or system in which the measurement is being done. For this reason, it is usually reasonable to have a study adopt only one definition of recidivism throughout the various stages of measurement. Arguably, if then each study uses only once definition and measure, it becomes quite problematic to compare data and findings from various studies. Blumstein and Larson (1971) draw attention to another source of misconception: the differences that exist in sampling and data collection techniques. The said differences can yield different results on recidivism rates even where the studies have focused on the same population. In the current conversation, it may be imperative to take note of the possibility of having some offenders left out when calculating recidivism. There are many reasons that can prompt such a development. For instance, there are those offenders who could be facing legal challenges such as those related to migration or pending charges; such could be having outstanding arrest warrants against them. In most cases, these are likely to culminate in dispositions and therefore cannot be assumed to new recidivist cases hence their exclusion in computing recidivism. Other groups of offenders not included in recidivism calculation include those who moved to other correctional or retaining facilities just as those who die in the duration the study is being conducted. Most importantly, the measures to be employed for recidivism are best and easily determined after a population of interest has been settled upon.

Notably, re-arrest data gains the greatest relevance when calculating recidivism because any offender arrested at any given instance is assumed to be innocent until he or she has been proven to be otherwise.  After all, being arrested does not necessarily mean that one has committed an offence. However, a challenge encountered when relying on reconviction data is that not all offenders are convicted for the crimes they commit. In addition, it is possible that a crime has been committed but the authorities are not even aware of it. In some cases, it may be clear an offence has been committed but the evidence available is not adequate to allow for prosecution. For these reason(s), it is usually reasonable to employ multiple measures when calculating recidivism. Ringland (2013) presents that the more a case progresses into the system (of criminal justice) the greater are the chances that an offender will be accorded the non-recidivist tag. A good explanation for this is that even where crimes have been actually committed, law enforcement authorities do not manage to arrest all offenders and even for those arrested not everyone is convicted. Further, there are those offenders who may be convicted but still not get a sentence to time in prison or jail.

In light of the inconsistencies that exist on the definition of recidivism and related measures, it is imperative that future researchers take caution and adopt a specific definition in their work, yet focus on multiple measures to gain more insight. One of the most important aspects to which attention has to be paid to is the type of data that is used in calculating recidivism. How should this data be collected and used? What type of data should be used? According to Ringland (2013), rates of recidivism can be computed using corrective services, court, or police data; all sourced from federal and state governments. Each of these sets of data has its own merits and demerits as far as accurate measures of recidivism are concerned. The fact that there is limited availability of each set of data is a strong reminder to future researchers to try and peruse through each data for increased accuracy of recidivism estimates. However, Cooper et al. (2014) point out a challenge in this regard by asserting that in most cases most of these data are not shared between federal, state, and local agencies. Researchers would need to search and compare this data in all the mentioned levels if greater accuracy is to be achieved.

For correctional administrators and other consumers who may at given points come across (and need to utilize) recidivism research findings, there is for them to take caution because of the noted inconsistencies.  There is need for researchers to do more to improve data collection as currently there is a lot of inconsistency in data reporting. It is also imperative that states and concerned agencies develop databases containing data that covers different correctional populations and spanning over extended periods. As Elderbroom and King (2014) argue, the collection of data for recidivism measures would be more timely, consistent, and accurate if a central database were maintained for all correctional agencies so that offending histories could be updated periodically. Imperatively, specific definitions should be adopted in studies so that there can be uncertainty about what is being measured. Amid the suggestion that each study should be specific on the definition adopted, care ought to be taken so that more measures are incorporated in calculations; these calculations should also take into account more dimensions such as geographic area, type of offence, criminal history, and length of sentence so that contextual inferences are as accurate as possible. Besides, if recidivism rates are calculated across different populations then results will be more meaningful and their place within the criminal justice system will be elevated. They will also find wider and more meaningful application in the day-to-day decisions that correctional administrators have to make.

Concerning the determination of recidivism rates across correctional facilities, particular attention should be paid to the differences that exist in populations. These facilities fulfill many functions ranging from temporarily holding offenders or suspects as they await transfer to other facilities to incarcerating those serving jail sentences. In light of the implied variation in populations (composition), recidivism gains more relevance as a decision-making and planning tool as opposed to a performance measure. Performance measures are better obtained by investigating specific outcomes measures in opposition to general recidivism. By and large, it is important to adopt particular definitions in studies so that it can be known what exactly is being measured. Doing this will give more accurate recidivism rates hence insight for correctional administrators to optimally manage system resources and more appropriately address the challenges encountered within the criminal justice system. Research on recidivism ought to aim more than just yielding or revealing recidivism rates: the larger goal should be to positively contribute towards the crafting and implementing best correctional practices. Such include the provision of early opportunities to interrupt crime cycle hence promoting public safety through expedited dispositions, modification of criminal behavior by using appropriate interventions, properly using resources within the criminal justice system, and enhancement of personal responsibility and accountability. To conclude this piece, the issue of definitions must be revisited so that a ‘best definition’ can be identified for adoption by an efficient prison system. While all definitions are right and relevant in their own right, it is thought the general definition pointed out by Elderbroom and King (2014) is more appropriate. Thus, efficient correctional systems should regard recidivism as “reengaging in criminal behavior after receiving a sanction or intervention”. Indeed, this is more encompassing as it covers all aspects of the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ definitions discussed herein.




Blumstein, A., & Larson, R. C. (1971). Problems in modeling and measuring recidivism. Journal
of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 8
(2), 124-132.

Cooper, A. D., Durose, M. R. & Snyder, H. N. (2014). Recidivism of prisoners released from 30 states in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010. US Department of Justice.

Elderbroom, B., & King, R. (2014). Improving recidivism as a performance measure. United States: Urban Institute.

LoBuglio, S., & Lyman, M. (2006). “Whys” and “hows” of measuring jail recidivism. United States: Urban Institute.

Maltz, M. (2001). Recidivism. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, Inc.

Ringland, C. (2013). Measuring recidivism: Police versus court data. Crime and Justice Bulletin, 175.

United States Sentencing Commission (2004) .Measuring Recidivism: The Criminal History Computation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. A Component of the Fifteen Year Report on the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Legislative Mandate. United States.









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