The aim of this longitudinal study is to analyze the criminal behavior of convicted individuals. Reconviction by type of offense, sanction, and socio-demographic characteristics like age and gender will be researched. The results of the first four waves of data collection are now available and cover the reconviction of persons convicted or released from prison in 2004, 2007, 2010, or 2013. The project is currently being supplemented by a fifth wave.

In this study, re­con­vic­tion is in­vest­ig­ated for all per­sons ju­di­cially con­victed in Ger­many. In­form­a­tion is col­lec­ted on the type of of­fense, the type and amount of sanc­tion, pos­sible pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions, the re­gion in which the of­fense took place, and so­cio-demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the of­fend­er such as age and gender. Us­ing this data, it is pos­sible, for ex­ample, to de­term­ine how of­ten re­lapses oc­cur in the case of vi­ol­ent or sexu­al of­fenses. Moreover, the res­ults al­low for fre­quently ex­pressed crim­in­al policy views on dif­fer­ent re­cidiv­ism rates for dif­fer­ent types of sanc­tions to be bet­ter veri­fied. It should be noted, however, that ini­tially only the fre­quency of re­lapse can be de­term­ined, no caus­al re­la­tion­ships can be made. Fines are gen­er­ally im­posed by the courts for less ser­i­ous of­fenses and for of­fend­ers with more fa­vor­able ‘so­cial fore­casts’; those sen­tenced to pris­on are there­fore more likely to dis­play a kind of ‘neg­at­ive se­lec­tion’, mean­ing that their more fre­quent re­con­vic­tion is not sur­pris­ing. What is, however, sur­pris­ing, is that re­lapses oc­cur re­l­at­ively rarely. If one con­trols for this se­lec­tion ef­fect, then no dif­fer­ence in the re­lapse risk ac­cord­ing to types of sanc­tion can be de­term­ined.

In the third wave, per­sons who were either giv­en a non-cus­todi­al sanc­tion in 2004, 2007, or 2010 or were re­leased from pris­on in one of these years were in­vest­ig­ated with­in a three-year or nine-year peri­od to see wheth­er they were con­victed again.

The fol­low­ing points are some of the res­ults of the study thus far:
• Slightly more than a third of those sen­tenced or re­leased from pris­on were re­con­victed with­in three years.
• A re­con­vic­tion did not fre­quently lead to re­im­pris­on­ment, but mostly to milder sanc­tions.
• Per­sons who are re­leased from pris­on are most likely to re­lapse, but only a quarter of those ini­tially sen­tenced to im­pris­on­ment re­turn to pris­on with­in three years.
• The re­con­vic­tion rates of those sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion are sig­ni­fic­antly lower than the re­con­vic­tion rates of those who have been re­leased from pris­on.
• Re­cidiv­ism var­ies greatly de­pend­ing on age and gender. Ad­oles­cents have the highest re­lapse rate (40%), those aged over 60 the low­est (15%). Wo­men are much less likely to re­lapse than men.
• The more of­fenses in the past, the high­er the risk of re­lapse.
• Gen­er­al re­cidiv­ism – re­gard­less of the of­fense – dif­fers greatly for dif­fer­ent of­fenses. The low­est re­cidiv­ism rate (less than 20%) is for those ini­tially con­victed of hom­icide. Of the of­fend­ers who were ini­tially con­victed of rob­bery or ag­grav­ated theft, about 50% re­lapsed.
• Of­fense-spe­cif­ic re­con­vic­tion (re­con­vic­tions for an act of the same of­fense) are much less com­mon than gen­er­al re­lapses. Slightly less than 1% of vi­ol­ent sexu­al of­fend­ers re­lapsed with an­oth­er vi­ol­ent sexu­al of­fense with­in three years, just un­der 3% with­in six years, and just over 3% with­in nine years.

The pro­ject is cur­rently be­ing sup­ple­men­ted by a fourth wave fun­ded by the DFG. The res­ults of the study will be pub­lished in 2020.