Comparing the effects of community service and short-term imprisonment on recidivism: a matched samples approach

H.T. Wermink, A.A.J. Blokland, P. Nieuwbeerta, D. Nagin, N. Tollenaar

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This study uses longitudinal official record data on adult offenders in The Netherlands (n=4,246) to compare recidivism after community service to that after short-term imprisonment. To account for possible bias due to selection of offenders into these types of sanctions, we control for a large set of confounding variables using a combined method of ‘matching by variable’ and ‘propensity score matching’. Our findings demonstrate that offenders recidivate significantly less after having performed community service compared to after having been imprisoned. This finding holds for both the short- and long-term. Furthermore, using the Rosenbaum bounds method, we show that the results are robust for hidden bias.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-349
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • Incarceration
  • Recidivism
  • Propensity scores
  • Quasi-experiment
  • Imprisonment
  • Community service

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