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Recidivism [< RECIDIVE + ISM. RECIDIVE < Latin recidîvus "recurring" < recidô "I fall back" < re- "back" + cadô "I fall". Confer cadence, accident, occidental.] is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior. The term is most frequently used in conjunction with substance abuse and criminal behavior. For example, scientific literature may refer to the recidivism of sexual offenders, meaning the frequency with which they are detected or apprehended committing additional sexual crimes after being released from prison for similar crimes. (If to be counted as recidivism the reoffending requires voluntary disclosure or arrest and conviction, the real recidivism rate may differ substantially from reported rates.) As another example, alcoholic recidivism might refer to the proportion of people who, after successful treatment by Alcoholics Anonymous, report having, or are determined to have, returned to the abuse of alcohol.

As reported on BBC Radio 4 on 2 September 2005, the recidivism rates for released prisoners in the United States of America is 60% compared with 50% in the United Kingdom. The report attributed the lower recidivism rate in the UK to a focus on rehabilitation and education of prisoners compared with the US focus on punishment, deterrence and keeping potentially dangerous individuals away from society.

Some observers now view the treatment of recidivism, especially for criminal offenders who are at risk of re-incarceration, as being a mental health issue rather than a "crime" issue for which choice theory based programs may be highly effective. See the Better-Choices link below.

Michael Maltz wrote an extensive monograph (2 MB) on the subject of recidivism in the US in 1994.

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