Ostermann, M. (2021). Recidivism of Low-Risk People that Receive Residential Community-Based Corrections Programs: The Role of Risk Contamination. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.
Placing low-risk individuals into residential community-based correctional programs often results in minimal or iatrogenic impacts upon recidivism. Contamination through exposure to higher-risk program participants is a mechanism that has been used to explain these effects. This study empirically explores this phenomenon. A series of survival models examine data from low-risk paroled people released from a state’s prisons from 2005 to 2011 (n = 3,862) to assess the impact of residential community-based program participation upon recidivism. The daily rate of exposure to higher-risk people while attending programs is modeled for a subset of program participants (n = 202) to assess impacts upon time to failure within 18-months of program completion.
Program participation increased the hazards of failure by approximately 66% for low-risk paroled people. Exposure to higher-risk people did not have significant impacts upon recidivism. The current study coincides with past work demonstrating that policy makers and practitioners should be mindful of the potential iatrogenic or minimal recidivism effects associated with treating low-risk people through residential community-based programs. The mechanisms by which these effects are produced are in need of further exploration. Particular attention should be paid to whether programs can disrupt pro-social aspects of low-risk peoples’ lives.