We aimed to systematically review recidivism rates in individuals given community sentences internationally. We sought to explore sources of variation between these rates and how reporting practices may limit their comparability across jurisdictions. Finally, we aimed to adapt previously published guidelines on recidivism reporting to include community sentenced populations.
We searched MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SAGE and Google Scholar for reports and studies of recidivism rates using non-specific and targeted searches for the 20 countries with the largest prison populations worldwide. We identified 28 studies with data from 19 countries. Of the 20 countries with the largest prison populations, only 2 reported recidivism rates for individuals given community sentences.
The most commonly reported recidivism information between countries was for 2-year reconviction, which ranged widely from 14% to 43% in men, and 9% to 35% in women. Explanations for recidivism rate variations between countries include when the follow-up period started and whether technical violations were taken into account.
Recidivism rates in individuals receiving community sentences are typically lower in comparison to those reported in released prisoners, although these two populations differ in terms of their baseline characteristics. Direct comparisons of the recidivism rates in community sentenced cohorts across jurisdictions are currently not possible, but simple changes to existing reporting practices can facilitate these. We propose recommendations to improve reporting practices.