Estimating a Dose-Response Relationship Between Time Served in Prison and Recidivism

Benjamin Meade, Benjamin Steiner, Matthew Makarios, Lawrence Travis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: Estimate the dose-response relationship between time served in prison and offenders' odds of recidivism. Methods: Using a large, representative sample of adult offenders released from prison under postrelease supervision in the state of Ohio, we examine the relationship between the length of time these offenders served in prison and their odds of recidivism during the year following their release. Multivariate logistic regression and analyses involving propensity score matching for ordered doses are both used to estimate the time served-recidivism relationship. Results: Analyses of these data revealed that offenders confined for longer periods of time had lower odds of recidivism, but these odds were only substantively lower for those offenders who served the longest periods of time in prison. Findings suggest the inverse effect of time served was not realized until after offenders have been confined for at least five years. Conclusion: Study findings indicate that the specific deterrent effect of prison sentences may be limited, and sentences less than five years may be reduced in order to save costs without a substantial threat to public safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-550
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • incarceration
  • offender
  • prison
  • recidivism
  • time served

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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