Law enforcement heads weigh in on recidivism


About 83 percent of inmates released back into the society were re-arrested at least once in the nine years that followed their release — that’s the statistic an association of sheriff’s deputies pointed to Friday as cause for concern.

In a blog written by the vice president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs,  Robert Sass discusses recidivism in the context of a “robust study” released by the United States Department of Justice.

The study tracked prison inmates released in 2005; those inmates were from thirty states and accounted for 77 percent of all prisoners released that year, Sass wrote in his blog.

The study found 44 percent were re-arrested at least once in their first year of release and 68 percent re-arrested at least once within three years after release. In total, the released inmates accounted for 1,994,000 arrests in the nine-year period or approximately five re-arrests per released inmate.

While the DOJ study uses re-arrest for the definition of recidivism, California does not, Sass pointed out.

In 2014, he said, the Board of State and Community Corrections adopted a new and controversial definition of recidivism only to include instances where a person is convicted of a new felony or misdemeanor within three years of release from jail/prison or being placed on probation/parole.

Sass’s point being: Rather than recidivism being defined by the same standards across the board, the new defining system leaves anyone examining the numbers with an apples-versus-oranges comparison.

“Arrests that result in other sanctions such as a probation/parole revocation with new charges dismissed are not counted,” he pointed out.

“As Dan Walters noted at the time, this very narrow definition, ‘would minimize official recidivism rates under realignment and thus, it seems, shield politicians from criticism,’” Sass said.

A check Friday with other law enforcement officials on the issue of recidivism revealed the issue remains a hotly debated topic.

Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station told The Signal Friday:

“We ask deputies to enforce the laws and arrest for crimes covered under each of the propositions and assembly bills listed above,” he said. “The SCV Deputies have been doing a phenomenal job at enforcement. Although Proposition 47 and others have reduced the seriousness of some crimes. I am proud that the deputies at Santa Clarita Valley station are keeping the public’s safety as a top priority as they continue to arrest repeat offenders and criminal violators, no matter how many times.”

Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, sees the question of recidivism in the same light as the “age-old question: How do we deal with crime?”

Hanisee said there are three answers that she knows of:“One, provide meaningful rehabilitation that works — the state hasn’t figured out how to do that, yet,” she said.

“Two, arrest and lock up offenders so that they cannot create more victims. And, three,
learn to live with the crime.

“Our state legislators say that they want to do No. 1 rather than No. 2, but since they have not figured out how to provide meaningful rehabilitation that works, the recidivism rate remains high, and we, as a society, have to live with No. 3.”

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