Re “New definition of recidivism minimizes political fallout from prison realignment” (Modbee.com, Sept. 29): In the column, Dan Walters mischaracterizes the Board of State and Community Corrections’ legislatively mandated work to define the term “recidivism.” The purpose of the definition is to recommend a standard measure to encourage statewide consistency when recidivism rates are reported, something that has been absent in the past.
Fifty-eight counties have been free to define and measure recidivism 58 different ways. In writing the definition, the BSCC committee had to consider available data that counties could easily and practically collect. The proposed statewide definition does not state, as Walters wrote, that “a felon would be considered a recidivist only if convicted of a new felony or misdemeanor committed within three years of release from custody or of being placed under parole or probation supervision.”
There is no “only if” in the definition, which goes on to state that counties may use additional measures besides conviction (such as violation of supervision) and a return to custody.
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Neither by design nor by happenstance would counting new convictions understate the recidivism rate since realignment, as Walters implies. Any comparison to previous years would have to use the same measure on comparable populations.
Linda Penner, chair, Board of State and Community Corrections, Sacramento