Redemption of First Time Arrestee’s: A Study

In June 2009, the National Institute of Justice Journal published “’Redemption’ in an Era of Widespread Criminal Background Checks” by Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura. The authors conducted a study to determine whether it was possible to determine empirically when it is no longer necessary for an employer to be concerned about a criminal offense in a prospective employee’s past.

The authors obtained the criminal history records of 88,000 individuals who were arrested for the first time in New York state in 1980. They determined whether they had committed any other crimes during the ensuing 25 years or had stayed clean. Then they compared the data against people in the general population who were the same age and people the same age who had never been arrested. Their goal was to determine empirically when the risk of recidivism for people in the study group was no greater than the risk for the two comparison populations. To do that, they plotted data curves to determine when the risk of re-arrest for people in the study group dropped below the risk of arrest for same-aged people in the general population and approached the risk of arrest for people who had never been arrested. The authors noted that their study provided the criminal justice community with the first scientific method for estimating how long is “long enough” for someone with a prior record to remain arrest-free before he or she should be considered “redeemed” by a prospective employer. You can read the entire post/pdf by visiting

The “hazard rate” is a statistical concept that is the probability, over time, that someone who has stayed clean will be arrested. The authors looked at two factors to determine the hazard rate: type of crime and age at time of 1980 (first) arrest. They then compared these hazard rates to people of the same age in the general population.

They found that the hazard rates for 18-year-old who were arrested for a first offense or robbery occurred at age 25.7 or 7.7 years after the 1980 arrest. After that point, the probability that they would commit another crime was less than the probability of other 26-year-olds in the general population. The hazard rates for individuals arrested for burglary and aggravated assault were 3.8 years (age 21.8) and 4.3 years (age 22.3).

The hazard rates for individuals who were 16, 18, and 20 years old when they were first arrested for robbery in 1980 were 8.5 years (age 24.5), 7.7 years (age 25.7), and 4.4 years (age 24.4) respectively. The results were similar for burglary and aggravated assault.

Surprisingly, there have been no studies since either to validate the results or to examine the hazard rates based on other factors such as gender, race, or socioeconomic background.

If you were arrested as a young adult and want to have your civil rights restored, you need an experienced attorney to help you. Criminal Attorney Gary Rohlwing has over three decades of experience. Call him today for a free initial consultation.

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