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Risk factors for recidivism in individuals receiving community sentences: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 June 2019

Denis Yukhnenko
Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Nigel Blackwood
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
Seena Fazel*
Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
* Address correspondence to: Seena Fazel, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, Warneford Lane, Oxford OX3 7JX, United Kingdom. (Email:



We aimed to systematically review risk factors for criminal recidivism in individuals given community sentences.


We searched seven bibliographic databases and additionally conducted targeted searches for studies that investigated risk factors for any repeat offending in individuals who had received community (non-custodial) sentences. We included investigations that reported data on at least one risk factor and allowed calculations of odds ratios (ORs). If a similar risk factor was reported in three or more primary studies, they were grouped into domains, and pooled ORs were calculated.


We identified 15 studies from 5 countries, which reported data on 14 independent samples and 246,608 individuals. We found that several dynamic (modifiable) risk factors were associated with criminal recidivism in community-sentenced populations, including mental health needs (OR = 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2–1.6), substance misuse (OR = 2.3, 95% CI: 1.1–4.9), association with antisocial peers (OR = 2.2, 95% CI: 1.3–3.7), employment problems (OR = 1.8, 95% CI: 1.3–2.5), marital status (OR = 1.6, 95%: 1.4–1.8), and low income (OR = 2.0, 95% CI: 1.1–3.4). The strength of these associations was comparable to that of static (non-modifiable) risk factors, such as age, gender, and criminal history.


Assessing dynamic (modifiable) risk factors should be considered in all individuals given community sentences. The further integration of mental health, substance misuse, and criminal justice services may reduce reoffending risk in community-sentenced populations.

© Cambridge University Press 2019

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