Hoping to reduce recidivism, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill allowing nonviolent ex-convicts to earn their way off parole early by completing an intensive drug treatment program, the Los Angeles Times reports. The law marks a significant change in the state’s approach to parole, says University of California-Irvine criminologist Joan Petersilia. She said other states have demonstrated the benefit of giving low-risk ex-felons a chance to shorten parole terms through good behavior: “The research shows that if you give people incentives, they are more likely to stay involved in treatment and succeed.”
Only ex-convicts who were serving time for nonviolent crimes – such as drug or property offenses – and have completed at least six months of addiction treatment in prison will be eligible. No one convicted of a sex offense will qualify. Most California parolees undergo three years of monitoring by their parole agent and are subject to conditions limiting travel and other aspects of their lives. The bill’s author, state Sen. Jackie Speier, said she was surprised that the Republican governor signed her measure in an election year when a move shortening parole terms could be labeled soft on crime. The bill enjoyed support from a wide variety of groups, including the powerful prison guards union.