Main content

Most Federal Offenders on Supervision Remain Arrest-Free

Approximately 80 percent of federal offenders remain free of felony arrest during their first three years back in the community after release from prison, and fewer than 15 percent of those are re-arrested for serious offenses even three years after completing their term of supervision, according to what is believed to be the largest study ever of federal offenders.

The study, published in the December 2015 issue of Federal Probation Journal, is based on data from 454,223 offenders from every district who entered probation or terms of supervised release between October 1, 2004 and September 30, 2014. The Journal article, Inroads to Reducing Federal Recidivism, includes not only an in-depth analysis of the recidivism data, but discusses how recidivism rates have been reduced over time. Because the population of offenders has grown riskier over time, it is necessary to control for this risk in order to fairly compare rearrest rates over time. After adjusting for the increasing risk, three-year re-arrest rates improved from 18 percent to 16 percent for offenders who finished their three-year follow-up in fiscal year 2014 compared with those whose follow-up term ended in 2011.

"Studies conducted over the past decade suggest that federal probation is indeed making inroads toward one of the federal criminal justice system’s most intractable problems: return to crime .... by those who have served a term of supervised release or probation," according to the Federal Probation Journal article. “Measureable decreases in federal recidivism coincide with concerted efforts to bring to life state-of-the-art evidence-based supervision practices into the federal system.

Arrest Rates for Serious Offenses While on Supervision, by Duration
Duration (in months) Total*
3 2.8%
6 5.2%
12 9.3%
18 12.7%
24 15.6%
36 20.8%
48 24.5%
60 27.7%

*Numbers do not sum across rows because the 27.7% within 60 months reflects additional arrests from the 24.5% within 48 months, etc.