Such notions, says Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, may skew the violence-intervention focus too far into short-term preventive tactics driven by law enforcement.
Jurisdictions that make extensive use of parole tend to have higher recidivism rates because more of their returning citizens are under the surveillance of parole officers and subject to onerous parole conditions that, if violated, could send them back to prison. “Comparing virtually any group of states or cities with simple, aggregate recidivism figures is inherently misleading and should constitute statistical malpractice,” according to criminologists Jeffrey A. Butts and Vincent Schiraldi.
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported last fall that neighborhoods with Cure Violence sites had significant crime reductions compared with similar areas without them. In the East New York site run by Man Up, gun injury rates fell by 50 percent over four years; the control site in East Flastbush fell by only 5 percent. Similarly, shootings were down by 63 percent in the Save Our Streets South Bronx area, but only 17 percent in the East Harlem control neighborhood.
Rather than asking “what’s the recidivism rate?” we should ask an entirely different set of questions about justice interventions. Are we really helping people convicted of crimes to form better relationships with their families and their law-abiding friends? Are we helping them to advance their educational goals? Are they more likely to develop the skills and abilities required for stable employment? Are we helping them to respect others and to participate positively in the civic and cultural life of their communities?