New study finds that felons sentenced to probation are less likely to return to prison than those sentenced to prison time.
A study published Wednesday finds that parole violations, not new crimes, are a driving factor in prisoner recidivism across the United States.
The research finds that parole violations like failing a drug test or associating with other felons are often the reason prisoners returns to prison after being released. These technical violations were more likely to be the reason for being jailed again than the prisoner committing an actual crime.
Also, the study found that prisoners who actually served time in jail were more likely to return to prison within five years of being released than those sentenced to probation.
The researchers wanted to look into the U.S. prison system’s so-called “revolving door”, where prisoners often are jailed again soon after being released.
The study was published by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This study shows that the revolving door is primarily a product of post-prison community supervision rather than the commission of new felony crimes, as so many people become trapped in the criminal justice system's accelerating cycle of surveillance and punishment," said lead author David Harding.
By all accounts, the number of prisoners in the U.S. has soared over the past few decades. According to a recent report from Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of American prisoners increased 700 percent between 1970 and 2005. As of 2017, some 2.3 million people are currently incarcerated in the U.S., making America the nation with the most prisoners anywhere in the world.
The researchers analyzed data for some 100,000 prisoners sentenced for felonies in Michigan between 2003 and 2006. The researchers then tracked these people until 2013 to see how many were released from prison and how many returned.
Some commonly seen parole violations included failing to complete certain programs, breaking curfew, failing a drug test, associating with other felons and leaving the state without the court’s permission.