The percentage of state prisoners with previous incarcerations topped the percentage of prisoners serving time for a first offense, according to a recently released report from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).

The report, which details various prison-related statistics for September 2023, cited 13,165 first offenders within the ADOC’s jurisdictional population. As for previous offenders, that number was 13,836, 51.2% of state prisoners. 

Since at least 2018, the first offender population has generally exceeded the previous offender population. 

Though the ADOC’s jurisdictional population has been roughly evenly divided between the two categories, the percentage of first offenders has typically constituted around 51% to 53% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The gap appears to be slowly closing over time, however. 

Other than September of this year, the only exception was September of last year, which saw the previous offender population surpass the first offender population. 

Though the overall jurisdictional population has steadily increased since March 2020, September 2022 saw a decrease in first-time offenders and an increase in previous offenders. October 2022 saw just the opposite: the overall first-offender population increased while the previous offender population decreased, returning to the trend of the steadily shrinking gap.

A similar phenomenon occurred in September 2023. The first offender population shrunk by 724 prisoners, while the previous offender population increased by 779 prisoners. 

The previous offender category refers to all inmates with a previous sentence in ADOC jurisdiction. Within this category are recidivists, who are previous offenders who returned to the ADOC population within three years of release. 

Several state leaders have expressed interest in cutting recidivism. Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Cam Ward said in October he wants to cut recidivism in half by 2030. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey stressed the importance of reducing recidivism in October 2021. 

Since September 2021, the recidivist population has remained between 6,481 and 6,676, trending upward with the overall prison population but decreasing slightly as a percentage of the overall population. 

In September 2023, recidivists comprised 24.1% of the ADOC’s jurisdictional population, down 1.1% from last September and 2.1% from September 2021.

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