A recidivist is a person who commits a crime after having been previously convicted of a criminal act. This tendency to commit further crimes means that recidivists and habitual criminals present more of a danger to society than do once-off offenders. A recidivist may receive different treatment from first-time offenders, in that he may be refused bail and conditional early release as well as receiving harsher than usual treatment from gaolers and cellmates.
Given the conditions of most penal institutions, it may well be that those institutions themselves turn criminals into recidivists, by immersing them indiscriminately into a sub-culture environment which, even within prison walls, is operated by crime; and then releasing those prisoners back into society without the means and skills necessary earn a decent, lawful living. In some cases it is also in the state's best interest to define a person as a recidivist, thereby gaining justification for his incarceration in prison, a labour camp or an insane asylum.