Studies cite drop in recidivism by those who serve longer sentences

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is a bipartisan body that studies and develops sentencing policies for the federal courts. It also serves as a resource for congress, the executive branch, and the public on matters relating to crime and sentencing.

In this capacity, the commission has published two important reports, one in 2020 and the second in June 2022, that demonstrate clearly how the length of incarceration can have a profound effect on recidivism. 

These two studies followed over 50,000 inmates released in 2005 and 2010 respectively.  Both studies concluded very similar findings: 1) Inmates who were incarcerated for less than 5 years experienced no change in recidivism; 2) Inmates who were incarcerated between 5 – 10 years experienced a drop in recidivism by 18%; 3) Inmates who were incarcerated more than 10 years experienced a drop in recidivism by 29%.

These studies offer strong rebuttal to many of the academic narratives that pervade correctional research today — most of which advocate for less incarceration. The fact they came from a bi-partisan commission serving under democrat administration should serve to open some eyes.

Thomas Hogan, Adjunct Fellow, Manhattan Institute sums up these findings well in his piece “Why Incarceration Matters:” 

“Lengthy prison sentences play an important role in stopping criminals from reoffending. When experts talk about deterrence being built on certainty, swiftness, and severity of sanctions, they need to recognize that all three factors work together to stop crime. As even the commission’s study found, relatively light sentences of less than 60 months don’t do much to stop defendants from committing crimes again, while longer sentences have a much better chance of success.”