Looking to cut corrections costs, some states are making it easier for convicts to get out of prison early. To do so, states are loosening “good time credits” that lighten a sentence if an inmate works and behaves.
Some states are also giving bonus credits to inmates who take classes and receive substance abuse treatment and counseling.
“States that have utilized earned time and other accelerated release policies have not only saved on prison costs but have also seen a reduction in recidivism rates,” said Alison Lawrence, a policy specialist with NCSL. ‘This is a great opportunity to reinvest money in building safer communities.’
The report finds education and work credits are the most common opportunity for earned time. Inmates can also participate in substance abuse/mental health treatment, disaster or conservation efforts and performing meritorious acts to earn credits. Several states have recently adopted or expanded earned time policies as part of managing prison populations and corrections budgets.
A National Council on Crime and Delinquency review found after looking at 23 years of early release data that there is nothing that would indicate inmates who get out early come back to prison more often. In fact, as the NCSL report noted, some studies say they are less likely to return:
The NCSL study pointed out that Kansas, Pennsylvania and other states offer programs that some say have helped cut prison costs and reduce the number of repeat offenders.