Program and policy development in the criminal justice arena has become increasingly reliant on quantitative and qualitative evidence to assess efficiency and effectiveness and to guide better practice. Recidivism has received much attention in recent years - the extent to which an individual offender or group of offenders reoffend. Recidivism research provides promise for crime control strategies targeted at reducing reoffending. Identifying recidivism risk factors, understanding the correlates of high volume offending, and evaluating programs designed to reduce offending remain three key research and policy priorities in Australia.
There is still a considerable divide between recidivism research and policy. What policy makers would like to measure is often not the same as researchers are able to measure, given the limitations on appropriate data and available information. As a result, research findings are often used out of context and with little regard for limitations imposed on them by the methodological constraints they face. This is driven primarily by a lack of clarity about an appropriate definition of recidivism and clear articulation of research methodologies.
This report deals with important questions relating to recidivism research. It provides a conceptual framework through which recidivism can be defined and interpreted and arms researchers and policy makers with a battery of tools useful in critical assessment of the research literature.