Recidivism and Expunctions: Breaking the Cycle

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For one of my assignments this summer, I wrote a brief memo on the economic value of expunctions. (An expunction is the removal or striking out of criminal records or information in files, computers and other depositories relating to criminal charges.) While completing this assignment, I came across several discussions around recidivism and wanted to briefly share with you what I found to be shocking information.

Annually, about 66.67 percent of people leaving prison (266,000 people) will commit another crime within three years. That is a huge recidivism rate, especially given that the federal government spends between $5 to 7 billion a year on federal corrections. What reduces recidivism rates the most? Employment. A study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons showed that the recidivism rate was cut in half for people who had post-prison employment. Yet people with criminal records have difficulty locating quality employment—or any employment at all.

The average person coming out of prison makes up to 20 percent less an hour than a person who was never in prison. Additionally, numerous studies over the past two decades have shown that up to 60 percent of employers would probably not hire a person with a criminal record. This needs to change. Recidivism costs America a fortune. The most common kinds of crimes that occur when a person recidivates are economic crimes. On average, a vehicle theft costs $7,840, a burglary $3,830, a robbery $8,340, and an assault $830. And despite the fears employers may have, hiring an employee with a criminal history does not cost the employer any more money in the long run than hiring a person without a criminal history. A study by the National Institute of Justice showed that hiring a person with a criminal history (whether violent or nonviolent) after they’ve been out of prison more than two years was no riskier than hiring a person within the general population.

Obtaining an expunction makes it easier for individuals with criminal records to get a job. Expunction means no criminal record. No criminal record means greater employability. Employability means less recidivism. Less recidivism means Americans save a ton of money. Who does not like to save money? No one! Yet only 17 states allow expunctions for first time offenders while 32 states require a waiting period once the actual sentence has been completed. On the federal level only one type of crime is eligible for automatic expunction: simple possession of narcotics and only for the first offense. More forgiving expunction options are needed if we are to reap their financial benefits.


Posted by Kenneth E. Strickland (Ken) on Thu. August 6, 2015 2:36 PM
Categories: Student Research
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