It’s Over … or Is It?

You survived the assault. Your wife and children are unhurt. Except for minor damage to the car, everything is fine. The police, the DA and your lawyer have signed off. Your insurance company ignored your claim.

The perp who smashed the car window, hit you in the face, is in jail. Your lawyer advises that he will probably receive a 2- to 10-year sentence, depending on the bleeding-heart sympathies of the jury and judge. This means he will be out of prison in 2-3 years with time off for “good behavior” and liberal whining about prison overcrowding. Then he will be on the streets, probably on supervised parole.

SNAFU — situation normal. The end. Or is it?

The attempted carjacker’s prison sentence may not actually be the end of your ordeal. The reason is an unusual word, “recidivism,” the tendency to repeat behaviors or, in this case, to not learn from history. Thugs and criminals typically screw-up repeatedly. “Recidivism” is from the Latin re (back) and caedere (to fall), literally “to fall back. The word didn’t have a significant presence in the English language until a century ago when reformers began studying prisons, prison conditions and offender profiles. And this is the root of your continuing problem because, to quote, “It ain’t over until it’s over” or “until the fat lady sings.” Unless you roll over and play dead, criminals hold grudges.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is an agency in the Department of Justice. It writes federal sentencing guidelines and studies crime and sentencing policies. In its report, “Recidivism Among Federal Offenders,” the Sentencing Commission offers some remarkable insights into your future if you defend yourself from an attacker.

With data from more than 25,400 former inmates who were either released from federal prisons or placed on probation in 2005, the USSC found that almost half (49.3%) had, within the next 8 years, been arrested again, either for a new offense or for violating parole. Among this group, nearly a third (31.7%) were re-convicted and 24.7% of them imprisoned again.

Re-arrest rates were higher (52.5%) for ex-prisoners who had simply been released than for those who had been given probation (35.1%). The USSC report also showed that re-offenses typically occurred quickly, within two years of release.

A bureaucratic agency, the USSC gets off on “variables” and “correlations,” but their report says younger criminals are more prone to get in trouble again — as are criminals with longer criminal histories. (Do we give the USSC a “duh, yeah” here?)

  • Criminals younger than 21 had the highest level of re-arrest (67.6%), while those who got out of prison after age 60 had a re-arrest rate of only 16.0%.
  • Criminals with relatively short records re-offended at a 30.2% rate; 80.1% of those with long records got in trouble again.

In the study, the type of past offenses and the prisoner’s education level — 34.3% without a high school degree, 67.5% finishing high school, 21.4% with some college and 7.5% with college degrees — also affected recidivism rates, but not as strongly as age and level of criminal history.

The most common crime for which criminals were likely to be re-arrested was assault (nearly 25%). Among serious offenders, the more frequent crimes on re-arrest were drugs and theft.

Using statistical sleight-of-hand, the USSC claimed the 5-year recidivism rate for state prison releases was 76.6%, but only 44.7% among federal prisoners.

As far as CYA statistics, the USSC said that the 25,431 federal criminals studied were all U.S. citizens: men 81.7%, women 18.3%; white 43.7%, black 33.9% Hispanic 17.8% and “other” the rest.

The point for responsibly armed Americans is that there is never a time to quit training; never a time when you can let your guard down or stop being situationally aware, especially if you have successfully defended yourself. Criminals apparently are not afraid of jail or even “hard time” and many, it would seem from the USSC report, actually prefer it.