Legal probation after release from open prison – a comparative study

Project period

01.10.2019 – 31.03.2023

Project staff

Prof. Dr. Tillmann Bartsch (head of the project)

Helena Schüttler 


Criminological Service in the Educational Institute of the Correctional Services of Lower Saxony


Pro*Niedersachen –  Funding Program of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Sciene and Culture

Project description

Since 1.10.2019, the KFN is conducting a comparative study on recidivism after release from open prison. So far, there are only very few empirical studies that have investigated recidivism rates of those released from open prisons. These results show that people released from open prisons recidivate to a lesser extent compared to prisoners from closed prisons (e.g. Suhling & Rehder, 2009; Thomas, 1992). However, the studies generally compared very different groups of prisoners. Therefore, the observed effects cannot necessarily be attributed to the type of prison.

The first step of the present research project is to examine which criteria are used to decide if a prisoner is transferred to an open or closed prison. In a next step, we will draw comparable samples of juvenile and adult offenders from open and closed prisons: (1) persons released from open prison (investigation group), (2) persons released from closed prison on probation (control group I), and (3) persons released from closed prison with previous unaccompanied short leaves/gradual release (control group II). Thereafter, we will conduct an analysis of the case files of the inmates in the three samples to record the presence of risk and protective factors as well as data on their stay in prison (e.g. treatment, misconduct). Using data from the German Federal Central Criminal Register, we will compare the recidivism rate, offence frequency, and offence severity of the different groups of prisoners after their release. Characteristics of the individual prisoners will be controlled using propensity score matching, allowing us to gauge the actual effect of the prison type on recidivism. In addition, further research questions can be answered based on the file analysis, e.g. on the preparation for release in open and closed prison.