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Press Release

Press Release

Virginia’s Recidivism Rate Remains Among the Lowest in the Country

May 28, 2021

RICHMOND — Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Virginia continues to have one of the lowest recidivism rates in the country at 23.9 percent. This is the fifth year in a row that the Commonwealth has had the lowest or second lowest recidivism rate in the nation. Recidivism refers to an individual committing a new offense within a specified follow-up period that results in a new sentence.

Virginia’s recidivism rate remains among the lowest of the 42 states that report re-incarceration of state responsible inmates within three years of their release, second only to South Carolina’s rate of 21.9 percent.

“We all benefit when the individuals in our correctional system have the opportunity to learn, grow, and return to society as productive citizens,” said Governor Northam. “Our success is the direct result of effective reentry programs and strong partnerships across our Commonwealth. I remain grateful to the hardworking professionals at the Virginia Department of Corrections who are dedicated to rehabilitation, transforming lives, and building safer communities.”

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), which operates state corrections facilities and state probation and parole offices, customizes its programming and supervision to address each individual’s criminogenic risks and needs. VADOC offers more than 125 programs to offenders who are in prison and those who are under community supervision. This includes substance abuse treatment, mental and behavioral health services, career and technical education, skills training, and employment and housing assistance.

“Virginia continues to be a leader in the field of corrections, on both a national and international scale,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “Virginia’s ability to maintain a low recidivism rate means increased public safety for families, neighborhoods, and the entire Commonwealth.”

Of the 12,551 state responsible inmates released from incarceration in Virginia in fiscal year 2016, 2,997 were re-incarcerated within three years. Virginia waits at least four years to calculate the three-year re-incarceration rate to ensure all court orders are included. All state responsible sentences after release are counted as recidivism in Virginia, including technical violations and sentences for offenses that occurred prior to release.

“Virginia’s recidivism rate has remained low because of the hard work of both correctional staff and inmates,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Especially important is the evidence-based programming offered to inmates, probationers, and parolees, from cognitive skills programming to academic and vocational education to substance abuse treatment, and the best practices followed in our facilities and district offices.”

Factors such as mental health impairment and drug use are associated with recidivism. Inmates with a history of testing positive for both opioids and cocaine, for example, had a re-incarceration rate substantially higher than those with no history of testing positive for opioids or cocaine.

Learn more about Recidivism Studies in Virginia. 

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