Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.

– the American National Institute of Justice

To define recidivism, it is: the tendency to return to criminal behavior after being punished for the same behavior. Measurements of recidivism are not uniformly defined because of different measurements for the “criminal act” trigger can be any of:

  • accusation of criminal behavior
  • arrest
  • charging
  • conviction
  • imprisonment

Similarly, in measuring recidivism, one needs to define a time period within which the relapse occurs: 1 year after release, 2 years, etc.

Recidivism rates play one of the most important roles within criminal justice since they measure the system’s effectiveness in terms of the combination of rehabilitation and deterrence.

From answers to “Define recidivism and explain its role in the criminal justice system”:

Answer #1: Definition: the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend.

Answer #2: Recidivism is the term used for repeat criminal behavior. Through the use of statistics gathered, the criminal justice system can use the recidivism rate as an indication of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, that is, how many individuals are returning to the criminal justice system with new offenses after being released from the system.

The role of recidivism in the criminal justice system: from, recidivism poses a significant problem for the criminal justice system because, although punishment serves many purposes, one of its primary goals is to reduce the likelihood that a person will repeat a future criminal act. Many organizations have dedicated themselves to studying the problem of recidivism and to enacting criminal justice reforms to reduce the rate of recidivism. The cause of recidivism is complex and likely due to a combination of personal, sociological, economic, and lifestyle factors.

Blurred photo of many people in a community quickly crossing the street free from worrying about justice in society.

This article is part of a study guide for students of recidivism and aspiring criminologists.

1 thought on “Define recidivism and explain its role in the criminal justice system.

  1. Ed Hyde Reply

    The 4 goals of incarceration are usually: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. I would say recidivism is a measure of success for 2 of those goals: deterrence and rehabilitation.

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