The Cost of Recidivism

Testifying in front of Cook County Finance Committee

By Augie Ghilarducci

If you had told me three short years ago that I would be asked by Cook County Commissioner John Daley to present to the Cook County Finance Committee 2021 Executive Budget Hearing, I would have thought you were smoking something that wasn’t yet legal in Illinois. But that is exactly what happened. Last month, I had the opportunity to (virtually) discuss the high cost of recidivism to taxpayers, the county, and the state, as well as some of the work 2nd Opportunity does in an effort to reduce recidivism.

Consider the numbers. (Spoiler alert: They’re ugly.) In 2016, Illinois saw 71,551 new convictions; of those, 63,681, or 89 percent, were reoffenders headed back to prison. It is anticipated that 96 percent of Illinois prisoners will eventually be released. Seventeen percent will reoffend within a year, while 43 percent will reoffend within three years. (Lyon, E., February 5, 2019)

The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council’s new report finds the average cost for one incidence of recidivism is nearly $151,700. Taxpayers shoulder about $51,000 of the cost. The report estimates the cost of recidivism to the state to be $13 billion over the next five years. Reducing the overall recidivism rate by just 1 percentage point means Illinois would save more than $90 million over nine years.

The Cost of Recidivism

As a result of my presentation to the finance committee, 2nd Opportunity has been contacted by several commissioners about the work we do in recidivism reduction. If you find these numbers similarly alarming, visit our website to learn more about our programming and how you can get involved.

Augie Ghilarducci is Vice President of Training & Development at 2nd Opportunity. You can contact him at or 847-257-2713.


Lyon, E., February 5, 2019, Illinois Calculates the High Costs of Recidivism, Prison Legal News,,reoffenders%20headed%20back%20to%20prison.

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