Reduce the recidivism rate

Why is this important to Colorado?


  • By working to reduce recidivism, we improve public safety and reduce victimization and our incarceration rates. By applying effective correctional practices and implementing evidence-based responses to violations, we can bring down our crime rate while safely reducing costs to taxpayers.
  • Better reentry planning for justice-involved individuals into society is good for public safety, builds resilient communities, and strengthens the economy by helping ensure people pay into society rather than draw from it.

How do we measure success?

  • Reduce the recidivism rate from 46.1% in 2014 to 45.0% by 2018. In Colorado, recidivism is defined as returning to prison within three years of release. States vary in their definition and calculation of recidivism. Colorado uses Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) definition and methodology for calculating recidivism rates, which also includes using calendar year (CY) versus fiscal year (FY) data. Each calendar year, offenders who release from prison are grouped together as a “cohort” and are tracked for three years to measure recidivism. For instance, the CY13 cohort includes those who return to prison within three years of release, through the end of December 2016. The recidivism rate has shown a slight increase for the last few years. However, our significant initiatives and reforms used to reduce recidivism were put into place in FY15-16, so the impact of these reforms may not be known until late 2019 at the earliest. The initial outcome target for this measure was 41.0% by 2018; this was based on the 2011 cohort and recidivism rate at the time, which was 46.1%. A five percent reduction in recidivism was the goal of the DOC. The current recidivism rate has increased to 50.0%, based on the 2013 cohort; therefore, the DOC revised its outcome target to 45.0%, keeping in line with a five percent reduction in recidivism. In order to gauge DOC’s current significant initiatives that took effect in FY15-16, the CY16 cohort will be tracked for three years, through CY19, to calculate the recidivism rate. Only then will the true value of these initiatives be realized.    
  • It is important to note that recidivism encompasses two numbers: new criminal activity or a technical violation of parole, probation, or non-departmental community placement. The majority of returns to prison includes technical violations and not new crime convictions. For example, the 49.5% recidivism rate for 2018 (2014 cohort) consists of 34.0% returning for a technical violation, while 15.5% returned for a new crime.
  • Reduce the percentage of technical parole violation revocations from 3.2% in June 2015 to 1.875% by 2018.
Status Outcome Measure 2015 Outcome Baseline 2016 Actual 2017 Actual 2018 Actual 2018 Outcome Target
NotImprovedTriangle.png Recidivism rate in state prisons 46.1% (2011) 48.6% (2012) 50.0% (2013) 49.5% (2014) 45.0%


Parole revocations for technical violations 3.20% 2.60% 2.19% 2.20% 1.875%

Source: DOC

What actions are we taking?

The Colorado Department of Corrections focuses its efforts on those programs and actions that are evidence-based and provide for the safety of Coloradans and staff, while preparing people who leave prison to successfully re-enter society. Examples include the following:
  • Establishing an offender mentoring program through in-reach services that will assist offenders through their transition from prison to the community by utilizing mentors. Mentoring opportunities will advise offenders on topics important to their successful reintegration into society. Mentors are used both inside prison and once offenders are released to the community. A policy will be created to outline the rules and requirements of the program. An offender mentor handbook will be created, in collaboration with stakeholders, to incorporate information to ensure consistency in the volunteer mentoring program. Another important component the DOC is employing is the use of surveys sent to offenders in the re-entry program to help formulate best practices in the mentoring program. It is the intent of the DOC to engage offenders in creating their own pathway to a successful and law abiding life. 
  • Establishing partnerships with workforce centers and second chance employers. These partnerships include regular employers, workforce centers, and community agencies that assist offenders once released from prison. The DOC will also increase the use of permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing funds through the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). DOLA’s permanent supportive housing takes care of those people who are or would be homeless and have disabilities or special needs. Like permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing through DOLA targets homelessness and those with behavioral health issues; however, rapid rehousing is more geared toward those who have been involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Increasing the use of the Women’s Risk Needs Assessment (WRNA) to address the gender responsive risks and needs of female offenders within a correctional setting. Previously, most risk needs assessments were developed with a generic model, examining males and females in the same way. The WRNA is a tool that was devised for the distinct risk and needs of female offenders.
  • Increasing the percentage of parolees who are employed to support parolees in their preparation to gain independence and build a successful life in the community. The DOC will arrange for employment interviews before leaving prison utilizing a screening process to match employer hiring criteria to offender job skills. Along with housing, the significance of employment cannot be overstated for parolees.
  • Implementing a mental health peer assistant program in all level III and above general population facilities that house offenders with mental health needs, utilizing trained offenders as peer assistants to other offenders who may be struggling with thoughts of self-harm or other stressors. While DOC staff will be completely involved in these situations, they also realize the importance of having positive peer support.