Recidivism No Higher Among Deportable Immigrants Than Similar Nondeportable Immigrants

For Release

February 22, 2008

Deportable immigrants released from the Los Angeles County jail system were no more likely to be rearrested than similar nondeportable immigrants released during the same period, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Researchers say the findings suggest that illegal and other immigrants subject to deportation who are released into the community from a local jail do not pose a greater threat to public safety than non-deportable immigrants released at the same time.

Researchers studied nearly 1,300 male immigrants released from jail over a 30-day period and followed them for a year to see whether there were differences in recidivism between the deportable and nondeportable immigrants.

Immigrants who were deportable — deemed so because they entered the United States illegally, overstayed their visas or committed other violations — were no more likely to be rearrested during the study period when compared to similar legal or naturalized immigrants.

“Our findings run counter to the notion that illegal immigrants are more likely than other immigrants to cycle in and out of the local criminal justice system,” said Laura Hickman, assistant professor with the Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute at Portland State University and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

The RAND study, published in the February edition of the journal Criminology and Public Policy, followed foreign-born men (517 deportable and 780 nondeportable) who were released back to the community between Aug. 4, 2002, and Sept. 2, 2002, from jails operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Hickman and co-author Marika Suttorp of RAND found that a higher percentage of deportable immigrants were rearrested at least once during the following year — 43 percent compared to 35 percent. But when researchers compared deportable immigrants to similar nondeportable immigrants — considering factors such as age, ethnicity, country of birth, and type of criminal arrest — the differences disappeared.

Criminal justice research has shown that some groups are more likely than others to be rearrested. For example, younger people and those jailed on drug charges have higher rates of recidivism than other groups.

The results of this study are significant because the researchers were able to show that the difference in the simple percentages of rearrest between the groups (43 versus 35) was due to the influence of the other factors like age, ethnicity, and criminal history related to recidivism. When these factors were accounted for in the analysis, immigration status had no influence on rearrest.

The study excluded immigrants who were sent from Los Angeles jails to state prisons or were transferred to the custody of immigration officials.

Researchers say a limitation of the study is that it relies upon the self-reporting of birthplace by arrestees. Although the study period was relatively short, the sample size was large enough to produce statistically meaningful results and there is no reason to believe the mix of arrestees was unusual during the study period, according to researchers.

The project did not examine whether immigrants as a group were more likely than native-born U.S. citizens to be rearrested. However, the study did find a smaller percentage of all immigrants were rearrested after one year (38 percent) than the percent of rearrests identified in unrelated study of the Los Angeles County jail population a few years earlier. The earlier study looked at the rearrest patterns of 1,000 men (including both immigrants and native born) and found 50 percent were rearrested after one year of arrest.

Among the concerns motivating a recent crackdown on illegal immigration in some jurisdictions is a fear that immigrants — particularly illegal immigrants — increase crime in the community. The RAND project is one of a small number of studies that has tried to examine claims that deportable immigrants are a unique threat to public safety and the first to use statistical procedures to examine patterns of recidivism among immigrants released from a large jail population.

The project was conducted by the RAND Safety and Justice Program, which conducts public policy research on corrections, policing, public safety and occupational safety.

About the RAND Corporation

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