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Objectives: Previous work has shown that direct comparison of recidivism rates between jurisdictions without accounting for potential sources of their variation can be misleading. We aimed to systemically review data on recidivism rate internationally and explore sources of between-country variation. Methods: We reviewed recidivism rates in individuals released from prison and given community sentences. We systematically searched peer-reviewed and gray literature focusing on publications since a systematic review in mid-2019. We extracted data on reoffending, reimprisonment, and re-arrests. To examine the association between index offences and recidivism rates, we calculated risk ratios. We used meta-regression to estimate the association between recidivism in released prisoners and country-level variables. We also summarised reported effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on recidivism rates. Results: Recidivism data were found for 33 countries. Released prisoners had 2-year reconviction rates between 18% and 55%, while individuals given community sentences had rates between 10% and 47%. Recidivism rates varied based on proportions of index offences. Country-level factors like homicide, robbery, and imprisonment rates were associated with prisoner recidivism. Lower rates during COVID-19 were linked to disruptions in criminal justice processes, reduced prison populations, and fewer crime opportunities. Conclusions: Interpreting recidivism rates requires considering individual and country-level factors. Transparent reporting of these factors is needed.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Criminal Justice

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