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.    
  • Reduce the percentage of technical parole violation revocations from 3.2% in June 2015 to 1.875% by 2018.
Status Outcome Measure Outcome Baseline (June 2015) Actual (June 2016) Actual (June 2017) Outcome Target Target Date
Needs Improvement
Recidivism rate in state prisons 46.1% (2011) 48.6% (2012) 50.0% (2013) 45.0% 2018
Parole revocations for technical violations 3.20% 2.6% 2.19% 1.875% 2018

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:

  • Use of incentives and intermediate interventions that allow community parole officers (CPOs) to appropriately respond to the individual needs of parolees to bolster their chances of successful reentry into the community:
    • Incentives: research tells us that the best outcomes for offender success are achieved when corrections professionals provide incentives and interventions at a ratio of 4:1. Incentives, a parolee positive reinforcement program, prompts CPOs to provide positive feedback and reinforcement to parolees when they are compliant and reach supervision milestones.
    • Intermediate interventions: interventions may be utilized to target the specific nature of an offender’s noncompliant behavior. Example: If an offender relapses on alcohol or drugs, he or she would be referred to substance abuse treatment in lieu of revocation.  
  • Utilizing Parents on a Mission (POM) in prisons to strengthen family ties and engage in better choices. POM is used to address family and relational issues, equipping offenders with tools to become positive role models to their children. The focal point of POM is for offender parents to lead their children away from destructive lifestyles.  
  • Decrease the percentage of parolees with a homeless designation by combating parolee homelessness through CPO assignment to the homeless population (focusing on the Denver area, which has the highest homeless population); working with the Department of Local Affairs/Division of Housing, through the passage of Senate Bill 17-021, to get vouchers and other support to offenders who have a mental or behavioral health disorder and are frequently released from prison with a homeless designation; and engaging with and supporting community-based organizations in expanding housing for parolees.
  • Utilizing re-entry pods/units at all Level II and above general population facilities. Re-entry pods/units aim to provide offenders with the tools and resources needed to be successful upon release. They also provide opportunities for family reunification where families and children are brought together more frequently than just during open visiting.