Skip to content

Press Release

Press Release

Governor Northam Announces Virginia Maintains the Lowest Recidivism Rate in the Country

January 10, 2019

RICHMOND — Governor Ralph Northam announced during last night’s State of the Commonwealth address that for the third year in a row, Virginia’s re-incarceration rate is the lowest in the country. Virginia’s latest recidivism rate is 23.4 percent.

Of the 43 states reporting 3-year recidivism rates (the number of offenders who are re-incarcerated within three years of their release from prison), the Virginia DOC’s rate of 23.4% is the lowest in the country.

 “Virginia’s latest recidivism numbers are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of both the Department of Corrections and the incarcerated offenders,” said Governor Northam. “I want to thank Director Harold Clarke for his department’s work to make sure we do as much as possible to prepare people to leave our corrections system and rebuild their lives.”

Last year’s rate was 22.4%. Between last year and this year, the percentage of offenders returning for technical violations more than doubled. Increases in technical violations may be associated with a response to the opioid epidemic; some judges sentence opioid users to state-responsible incarceration for their safety and treatment.

“We are returning offenders to their communities equipped to be law-abiding citizens who contribute to their neighborhoods and families,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “This is a bipartisan accomplishment and we look forward to working together to continue investing in critical re-entry efforts.”

The groups with the lowest recidivism rates consist of those offenders who served their time in DOC facilities, as opposed to local jails, and had no known mental impairment and no history of opioid abuse. (Limitations in capacity in DOC facilities means some state responsible offenders serve their entire incarceration in a local or regional jail.) The recidivism rate for those in DOC facilities with no history of opioid abuse and no mental illness is 17.3 percent. 

“Reentry work begins the day we receive an offender,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Our mission is to help people be better, and the evidence shows we’re doing that inside the prisons as well as in the community once offenders are out on probation and parole.”

Like most states, Virginia counts its official recidivism rate as the percentage of offenders who return to state responsible incarceration within three years of being released. The rate was calculated by following offenders released to the community in 2014 for three years. Of the 12,021 offenders released from incarceration in Virginia in fiscal year 2014, 2,815 were re-incarcerated within three years.

More information can be found at

Return to the top of the page