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Cdcr Lifer Parolee Recidivism Report Jan 2013

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CDCR’S LIFER REPORT SERIES

LIFER PAROLEE
RECIDIVISM 
REPORT 

January 2013

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Representatives
  _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  

 

 

Executive Office 
Matthew Cate
Secretary
Martin Hoshino
Undersecretary
Terri McDonald
Undersecretary
Lee E. Seale
Director

Office of Research 
Brenda Grealish
Deputy Director
Jay Atkinson
Research Manager III

Tina Fitzgerald
Research Manager II

Jacqui Coder
Research Manager II

Denise Allen
Research Manager II

David Weishahn
Staff Information Systems Analyst

Kevin Grassel
Research Program Specialist II

Loran Sheley
Research Program Specialist II

Dionne Maxwell
Research Program Specialist II
Alice Chen
Research Analyst II

Special thanks to the CDCR Division of Adult Parole Operations for
providing all requested case study information.

 

LIFER PAROLEE RECIDIVISM REPORT 
This  report  focuses  on  the  recidivism  of  individuals  who  were  released  to 
California  Department  of  Corrections  and  Rehabilitation  (CDCR)  parole  after 
serving a sentence of life with the possibility of parole, hereafter referred to as 
“lifer  parolees”  or  “lifers.”1    It  provides  an  in‐depth  recidivism  analysis  of  lifer 
parolees who were released during fiscal year 2006‐07 and followed for a period 
of  three  years.    These  analyses  expand  on  those  which  were  first  presented  in 
the  CDCR  2011  Adult  Institutions  Outcome  Evaluation  Report2  by  further 
exploring  information  related  to  the  circumstances  surrounding  the  infractions 
of those who recidivated within the three‐year follow‐up time frame.   
In  order  to  provide  a  broad  context  to  the  overall  performance  of  lifers  on 
parole,  lifers  who  have  been  released  to  parole  are  compared  to  their 
counterparts who were released after having served a determinate sentence in 
prison.    Accordingly,  we  employ  a  recent  historical  cohort  for  each  group 
because  we  seek  to  examine  not  only  those  offenders  who  have  successfully 
reintegrated into the community, but also those who have recidivated and may 
now be in custody.   
Defining Recidivism 
Since  there  is  no  single  definition  of  recidivism  agreed  upon  by  all  correctional 
experts,  we  compare  the  parole  performance  of  each  group  through  two 
different lenses of recidivism. First we compare the two groups by setting forth 
the rates at which they were convicted of new crimes, whether misdemeanors or 
felonies. We then compare the two groups by measuring the rates at which they 
returned to prison, whether for new crimes or for parole violations. These two 
measures partially overlap in that they both capture recidivists who returned to 
prison after being convicted of new crimes. The former measure, however, also 
includes  misdemeanants  who  did  not  return  to  prison;  the  latter  measure,  on 
the other hand, includes parole violators who were never convicted in a court of 
law for the offenses that resulted in their return to prison. Both measures show 
                                                            
1
 See R. Weisberg, D. A. Mukamal, and J. D. Segall, Life In Limbo: An Examination of 
Parole Release For Prisoners Serving Life Sentences With The Possibility Of Parole In 
California, 2011.  
Retrieved March 6, 2012, from 
http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/newsfeed/files/2011/09/SCJC_report_Parole_Release_ 
for_Lifers.pdf.  This report, produced by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, is a 
valuable bulletin on California’s lifer population.   
2
 The full report may be downloaded at: 
http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/adult_research_branch/Research_Documents/ARB_FY_0607
_Recidivism_Report_(11‐23‐11).pdf.   

1 
 

 

 

that lifers recidivate at markedly lower rates than those who serve determinate 
sentences.   
Because  we  track  performance  for  three  years,  our  most  recent  available  data 
involves a cohort of offenders who were released in fiscal year 2006‐07. Of this 
group, the vast majority – over 112,000 offenders ‐‐ were released after having 
served  a  determinate  sentence.    A  much  smaller  group  –  83  offenders  –  were 
released after having served an indeterminate sentence.   
Demographic and Offender Characteristics 
Tables 1a and 1b show the characteristics for those released from CDCR in fiscal 
year  2006‐07.    Nearly  90  percent  of  the  determinant  sentence  releases  were 
males  while  approximately  95  percent  of  the  indeterminate  sentence  releases 
were  male.    Black/African  American  and  those  categorized  as  “Other”  account 
for a higher proportion of indeterminately sentenced releases than those with a 
determinate  sentence.    Conversely,  White  and  Hispanic/Latino  offenders  make 
up a small proportion of the indeterminately sentenced released than those with 
a determinate sentence. 
The  indeterminate  sentence  population  was  much  older  than  those  with  a 
determinate  sentence.    The  indeterminate  sentence  population  had  no  one 
younger  than  30  years  old  and  nearly  a  quarter  of  the  population  was  55  or 
older.  Approximately 35 percent of the determinate sentence population were 
younger than 30 years old and only 2.7 percent were 55 or older. 
Both the determinate and indeterminate sentence releases had few felons with 
developmental  disabilities.  Both  populations  contained  few  sex  offenders, 
although felons with a determinate sentence (6.8 percent) had higher proportion 
than those with an indeterminate sentence (3.6 percent).  All 83 felons with an 
indeterminate  sentence  were  committed  for  a  crime  against  a  person.    Nearly  
23 percent of the felons with a determinate sentence committed a crime against 
a person. 
Indeterminately  sentenced  felons  committed  for  Murder  Second  
(44.6  percent),  Kidnapping  (32.5  percent),  Attempted  Murder  First  
(14.5  percent),  Murder  First  (7.2  percent),  and  Assault  with  a  Deadly  Weapon  
(1.2 percent). 
 
 

 

2 
 
 
 

 

 

Table 1a.  FY 2006‐07 Characteristics 
DETERMINATE
SENTENCE

Characteristic

Number

 

%

Number

%

112,590

100.0%

83

100.0%

112,673

100.0%

Sex
Male
Female

100,696
11,894

89.4%
10.6%

79
4

95.2%
4.8%

100,775
11,898

89.4%
10.6%

Race/Ethnicity
White
Hispanic/Latino
Black/African American
Other

36,145
42,453
29,030
4,962

32.1%
37.7%
25.8%
4.4%

23
19
28
13

27.7%
22.9%
33.7%
15.7%

36,168
42,472
29,058
4,975

32.1%
37.7%
25.8%
4.4%

Age at Release
18-19
20-24
25-29
30-34
35-44
45-54
55+

735
15966
22,721
17,777
34,671
17,716
3,004

0.7%
14.2%
20.2%
15.8%
30.8%
15.7%
2.7%

0
0
0
4
30
29
20

0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
4.8%
36.1%
34.9%
24.1%

735
15966
22,721
17,781
34,701
17,745
3,024

0.7%
14.2%
20.2%
15.8%
30.8%
15.7%
2.7%

Developmental Disability
Yes
No

1,682
110,908

1.5%
98.5%

1
82

1.2%
98.8%

1,683
110,990

1.5%
98.5%

Sex Offenders
Yes
No

7,633
104,957

6.8%
93.2%

3
80

3.6%
96.4%

7,636
105,037

6.8%
93.2%

25,741
37,976
35,753
13,120

22.9%
33.7%
31.8%
11.7%

83
0
0
0

100.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%

25,824
37,976
35,753
13,120

22.9%
33.7%
31.7%
11.6%  

 

3 
 
 

Number

TOTAL

Total

Offense Category
Crimes Against Person
Property Crimes
Drug Crimes
Other Crimes

 

%

INDETERMINATE
SENTENCE

 

 

Table 1b.  FY 2006‐07 Characteristics (Continued) 
DETERMINATE
SENTENCE

Characteristic

Number
Offense
Murder First
Murder Second
Manslaughter
Vehicular Manslaughter
Robbery
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Attempted Murder First
Attempted Murder Second
Other Assault/Battery
Rape
Lewd Act with Child
Oral Copulation
Sodomy
Sexual Penetration with Object
Other Sex Offenses
Kidnapping
Burglary First
Burglary Second
Grand Theft
Petty Theft with Prior
Receiving Stolen Property
Vehicle Theft
Forgery/Fraud
Other Property Offense
CS Possession
CS Possession for Sale
CS Sales
CS Manufacturing
Other CS Offense
Hashish Possession
Marijuana Possession for Sale
Marijuana Sale
Marijuana Other
Escape/Abscond
Driving Under the Influence
Arson
Possession of a Weapon
Other Offense

 

0
3
470
234
4,958
5,604
4
324
9,206
354
1,790
195
49
101
2,246
203
3,389
7,281
3,447
6,212
5,130
7,839
3,579
1,099
19,344
9,929
3,126
888
715
52
1,103
450
146
169
2,576
289
6,148
3,938

%

0.0%
0.0%
0.4%
0.2%
4.4%
5.0%
0.0%
0.3%
8.2%
0.3%
1.6%
0.2%
0.0%
0.1%
2.0%
0.2%
3.0%
6.5%
3.1%
5.5%
4.6%
7.0%
3.2%
1.0%
17.2%
8.8%
2.8%
0.8%
0.6%
0.0%
1.0%
0.4%
0.1%
0.2%
2.3%
0.3%
5.5%
3.5%

 

Number

6
37
0
0
0
1
12
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
27
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

%

7.2%
44.6%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
1.2%
14.5%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
32.5%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%

TOTAL

Number

6
40
470
234
4,958
5,605
16
324
9,206
354
1,790
195
49
101
2,246
230
3,389
7,281
3,447
6,212
5,130
7,839
3,579
1,099
19,344
9,929
3,126
888
715
52
1,103
450
146
169
2,576
289
6,148
3,938

%

0.0%
0.0%
0.4%
0.2%
4.4%
5.0%
0.0%
0.3%
8.2%
0.3%
1.6%
0.2%
0.0%
0.1%
2.0%
0.2%
3.0%
6.5%
3.1%
5.5%
4.6%
7.0%
3.2%
1.0%
17.2%
8.8%
2.8%
0.8%
0.6%
0.0%
1.0%
0.4%
0.1%
0.1%
2.3%
0.3%
5.5%
3.5%

 
4 

 
 

INDETERMINATE
SENTENCE

 

 

Only  5.2  percent  of  the  determinately  sentenced  population  committed  these 
same  offenses,  with  the  vast  majority  of  them  being  Assault  with  a  Deadly 
Weapon. 
New Convictions 
For  this  measure,  we  define  a  recidivist  as  an  individual  who,  after  serving  a 
felony  sentence  in  a  CDCR  adult  institution,  was  released  to  parole  between  
July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007, and subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor or 
a  felony.    The  recidivism  rate  is  calculated  using  the  ratio  of  the  number  of 
offenders who were returned to prison during the follow‐up period to the total 
number  of  offenders  in  the  recidivism  cohort,  multiplied  by  100.    Results 
presented are cumulative over one, two, and three years. 
As  Table  2  and  Figure  1  show,  more  than  half  of  the  offenders  who  were 
released  after  having  served  determinate  sentences  were  subsequently 
convicted of new crimes within three years of release, a much higher rate than 
that  seen  in  the  lifer  cohort.  Indeed,  the  re‐conviction  rate  of  lifers  was 
approximately  one‐tenth  the  rate  of  those  who  served  determinate  sentences.  
Of the 83 lifers released in the fiscal year 2006‐07 cohort, only 4 were convicted 
of new crimes within 3 years of release.   
 
 

 

5 
 
 
 

 

 

Table 2. FY 2006‐07 Three‐Year Conviction Recidivism Rates by Sentence Type 
FY 2006/07 Release Cohort
Convictions

One Year
Sentence Type
Determinate Sentence Law*
Indeterminate Sentence Law

Number
Released
112,590
83

Number
Convicted
26,657
2

Two Years

Recidivism
Rate
23.7%
2.4%

Number
Convicted
46,106
4

Three Years

Recidivism
Rate
41.0%
4.8%

Number
Convicted
57,980
4

Recidivism
Rate
51.5%
4.8%

 

* Those w ho have a Department of Justice automated criminal history record

 
Figure 1. FY 2006‐07 Three‐Year Conviction Recidivism Rates by Sentence Type 
100%
90%
80%
70%
60%
51.5%

50%
41.0%

40%
30%
23.7%

20%
10%
4.8%

2.4%

4.8%

0%
One Year

Two Years 

Determinate Sentence Law

Three Years
Indeterminate Sentence Law

 
 

 

6 
 
 
 

 

 

Returns to Prison3 
For  this  measure,  we  define  a  recidivist  as  an  individual  who,  after  serving  a 
felony  sentence  in  a  CDCR  adult  institution,  was  released  to  parole  between  
July 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007, and subsequently returned to CDCR for a parole 
violation or a new conviction. The recidivism rate is calculated using the ratio of 
the  number  of  offenders  who  were  returned  to  prison  during  the  follow‐up 
period  to  the  total  number  of  offenders  in  the recidivism  cohort,  multiplied  by 
100. Results presented are cumulative over one, two and three years.   
The  recidivism  rates  for  both  groups  are  higher  under  this  measure  because  it 
includes  returns  to  prison  for  technical  parole  violations.  Beyond  that,  we  see 
again  that  lifers  recidivate  at  a  much  lower  rate  than  those  who  received 
determinate  sentences.  After  three  years,  65  percent  of  determinately 
sentenced  inmates  are  returned  to  prison,  while  only  13  percent  of  lifers  are 
returned  to  prison.    Of  the  83  lifers  released  in  the  fiscal  year  2006‐07  cohort, 
only  11  were  returned  to  prison  within  3  years  of  release  (see  Table  3  and  
Figure 2).   
 

 

                                                            
3

 These numbers differ from what was reported in the 2011 Adult Institutions Outcome 
Evaluation Report because three individuals were erroneously included in the report as lifer 
parolees. 

7 
 
 
 

 

 

Table 3. FY 2006‐07 Three‐Year Return to Prison Recidivism Rates by Sentence Type 
One Year
Sentence Type
Determinate Sentence Law
Indeterminate Sentence Law

Number
Released
115,170
83

Number
Returned
55,163
4

Two Years

Recidivism
Rate
47.9%
4.8%

Number
Returned
69,683
9

Three Years

Recidivism
Rate
60.5%
10.8%

Number
Returned
75,008
11

Recidivism
Rate
65.1%
13.3%

 

 
Figure 2. FY 2006‐07 Three‐Year Return to Prison Recidivism Rates by Sentence Type 
100%
90%
80%
70%

65.1%
60.5%

60%
50%

47.9%

40%
30%
20%
10%

13.3%

10.8%
4.8%

0%
One Year

Two Years

Determinate Sentence Law

Three Years
Indeterminate Sentence Law

 

 

 

8 
 
 
 

 

 

Conclusion 
Examination  of  lifer  parolee  recidivism  rates  for  a  fiscal  year  cohort  that  was 
followed  for  a  period  of  three  years  from  release  to  parole  shows  that  lifer 
parolees receive fewer new convictions within three years of being released to 
parole  (4.8  vs.  51.5  percent,  respectively).  They  also  have  a  markedly  lower 
return  to  prison  recidivism  rate  than  non‐lifer  parolees  (13.3  vs.  65.1  percent, 
respectively). 

Next Steps 
This report is part of a series that identifies and examines additional attributes 
that contribute to the parole performance of released lifers.  Future reports will 
be  forthcoming  as  additional  data  become  available,  more  time  elapses  to 
expand  the  parole  follow‐up  period,  and  interest  is  expressed  regarding 
particular aspects of lifer parolees.   

9

 

 

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