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Redemption in the Presence of Widespread Criminal Background Checks

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 47 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2009 Pages: 327-360
Date Published
May 2009
34 pages

This article proposes a method for analyzing data from background checks on ex-offenders so as to produce an evidence-based assessment of their risk and develop a reliable procedure for employers and others to use in interpreting background information on an ex-offender's evolutionary behaviors.


Studies have shown that the probability of recidivism declines with the length of time an ex-offender has gone without reoffending ("time clean"). This implies that at some point in time, a person with a criminal record who has remained free of further involvement with the criminal justice system is of no greater risk of offending than a peer who has never been arrested. For the purposes of this paper, this is called the point of “redemption.” Very little information exists on the measure of the redemption point and how its value varies with the crime type and the offender's age at the time of earlier offenses. Using data from a State criminal-history repository, the current study estimated the declining risk of rearrest with time clean. It first estimated the point of redemption as the time when the risk of reoffending intersected the age-crime curve, which represents the arrest risk for the general population of the same age. The study also estimated another similar redemption point when the declining risk of reoffending comes “sufficiently” to the risk of offending posed by those who have never been arrested. Both measures of redemption are estimated as a function of the age and the crime type of the earlier arrest. The information and approaches presented should be useful in enhancing redemption opportunities and consequent employment opportunities for those who have offending in their backgrounds but have since lived a lawful life. 2 tables, 4 figures, and 100 references

Date Published: May 1, 2009