Monitoring trends in re-offending                

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Release Date: Monday, 3 March 2008

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has developed a new technique for monitoring trends in juvenile and adult re-offending.

The technique will be used to assess the Government's efforts in reducing re-offending under the State Plan. It will also be used to help place high-risk offenders on programs to reduce their re-offending.

The traditional approach to monitoring re-offending simply looks at trends in the proportion of offenders re-convicted or re-imprisoned. The Productivity Commission uses this approach when comparing the effectiveness of State and Territory criminal justice systems.

The weakness in this approach is that changes in reconviction or re-imprisonment rates sometimes reflect nothing more than changes in the profile of offenders coming before the courts.

Younger offenders, for example, are more likely to re-offend than older offenders. If more young people are brought to court, the reconviction rate may rise, even if Government efforts to reduce re-offending are successful.

To get around this problem, the Bureau developed a formula that predicts the rate of reconviction using information on an offender, such as his or her age, offence, number of concurrent offences, gender and prior criminal record.

By comparing the predicted rate of reconviction with the actual rate of reconviction, the Bureau is able to tell whether Government efforts to reduce re-offending are succeeding or failing. A higher than expected rate of reconviction signals failure. A lower than expected rate of reconviction signals success.

Application of the formula revealed no change in re-offending among adult offenders between 2003 and 2004 but a slight reduction in re-offending among juvenile offenders between 2002 and 2004.

It also revealed that adult offenders are far less likely to re-offend than juvenile offenders.

Less than a third of adult offenders are reconvicted within two years. The corresponding figure for juvenile offenders is about 60 per cent.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn. Ph. 0419-494-408 or 9231-9190.