Early Prison Release Programs: Recipe For Political Disaster?


A backlash over an Oregon law that allows inmates to trim as much as 30 percent from their sentences via expanded “earned-time credits” shows some political pitfalls when policy changes open prison doors earlier, reports Stateline.org. California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin are among other states that have accelerated prisoner releases or may do so. Victims' advocates attacked Oregon's law as a threat to public safety; prosecutors and the Democratic state attorney general say the law goes too far and that inmates should be able to shave no more than 15 percent off their sentences, as the federal government allows.

Studies show that length of prison stay “has nothing to do with the recidivism rate,” says Todd Clear, incoming dean of the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University. “If I let someone out (early), I'm not increasing the chances of them committing a crime. I'm just changing the date.” Still politicians and corrections officials are aware that a single, well-publicized crime by an inmate who was granted accelerated release can call entire programs into question, virtually overnight. For that reason, Clear believes early-release initiatives are a recipe for political disaster: “The minute you let a bunch of people out early, you own everything they do.”

Comments are closed.