Virginia maintains lowest recidivism rate in U.S.

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- During his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam said Virginia has maintained the lowest recidivism rate in the country for the third year in a row.

According to a release, of the 43 states that report three-year recidivism rates, or the number of offenders who are re-incarcerated within three years of their release from prison, Virginia's Department of Corrections reports a rate of 23.4 percent, which is the lowest in the country.

“Virginia's latest recidivism numbers are the result of a lot of hard work on the part of both the Department of Corrections and the incarcerated offenders,” said Northam. “I want to thank Director Harold Clarke for his department's work to make sure we do as much as possible to prepare people to leave our corrections system and rebuild their lives.”

Last year, Virginia's recidivism rate was 22.4 percent. In the intervening months, the percentage of offenders returning for technical violations more than doubled, which may be associated with a response to the opioid epidemic.

The release says some judges sentence opioid users to state-responsible incarceration for their safety and treatment.

It adds the groups with the lowest recidivism rates consist of offenders who served their time in DOC facilities, not local jails, and who had no known mental impairment or history of opioid abuse.

However, the release also says limitations in capacity at DOC facilities causes some offenders to serve their entire sentences in local or regional jails.

The recidivism rate for those offenders in DOC facilities with no history of opioid abuse or mental illness is 17.3 percent.

The recidivism rate is calculated by following offenders released to the community in 2014 for three years. Of the more than 12,000 offenders who were released from incarceration in Virginia in 2014, more than 2,800 were re-incarcerated within the three years.

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