Race as a Predictor of Recidivism Risk: An Epidemiological Analysis
Prisoner recidivism is a problem of great social importance, as recidivism represents a failure of the rehabilitative goal of incarceration. The problem addressed in this study was the lack of accurate estimates of race as a predictor of recidivism risk in the United States, after taking demographics and criminal variables into account. Applying the life-course theory of recidivism, the purpose of this archival, epidemiological study was to calculate whether recidivism risk varied based on race, across different seriousness levels of commitment offense and number of prior arrests, among a sample of male federal prisoners released from custody. A Cox proportional hazards ratio was applied to determine both the statistical significance and the magnitude of being Black, rather than White, as a predictor of recidivism in six distinct scenarios. Analysis indicated that Black prisoners were more likely to recidivate in some instances, whereas White prisoners were more likely to recidivate in other instances. The results of the study can assist psychologists, parole boards, and other stakeholders in more accurately estimating the role of race in recidivism risk. The results of the study were that race is a significant risk factor in some kinds of recidivism, but not in others, and also that being African-American is not universally associated with higher recidivism risk. The results suggest that race might be a less prominent recidivism factor than previously thought.