Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Recidivism of Supermax Prisoners in Washington State

Recidivism of Supermax Prisoners in Washington State

Lovell, David, L. Clark Johnson, and Kevin C. Cain. “Recidivism of Supermax Prisoners in Washington State.” Crime & Delinquency 53, no. 4 (2007): 633-656.


“This study of recidivism among Washington supermax prisoners used a retrospective matched control design, matching supermax prisoners one-to-one with nonsupermax prisoners on mental illness status and up to eight recidivism predictors. Supermax prisoners committed new felonies at a higher rate than nonsupermax controls, but the difference was not statistically significant. Prisoners released directly from supermax to the community, however, showed significantly higher felony recidivism rates than their nonsupermax controls and committed new offenses sooner than supermax prisoners who left supermax 3 months or more before prison release. Limitations, methodological issues, and policy implications are considered.”

“The principal finding of this study is that supermax assignment did make a significant difference to recidivism, but only for those offenders who were held in supermax until the end of their prison sentences. These offenders committed new felonies sooner and at higher rates than otherwise comparable nonsupermax offenders. Furthermore, they reoffended more quickly than otherwise comparable supermax offenders who weren’t released to the community directly from supermax.”


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Keywords: super-max, Super-max, supermaximum prison, effects on reentry, effects on re-entry, release from prison, release to the community, direct release, maximum custody