‘Good Behavior’ Credits Did Not Increase Recidivism in MO Study

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Recidivism rates did not increase when offenders on probation and parole in Missouri had their sentences shortened for good behavior—reducing the supervised population by 18 percent in three years—according to a study published yesterday by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The policy of “earned compliance credits,” established in 2012, allowed offenders to reduce their time on probation or parole by 30 days for every month during which they complied with the terms of their sentences, according to the research brief entitled “Missouri Policy Shortens Probation and Parole Terms, Protects Public Safety.”

Some 38 states have some form of “earned discharge” that allows inmates to shorten their sentences, but Missouri has operated the most comprehensive program since it enacted the 2012 Justice Reinvestment Act, the paper noted.

“The law had no evident negative impact on public safety: Those who earned credits were subsequently convicted of new crimes at the same rate as those discharged from supervision before the policy went into effect,” write Kathryn Zafft, John Gramlich, Robin Olsen, Phil Stevenson, and Adam Gelb–all with the Pew Public Safety Performance Project.

That rate was two percent for individuals reconvicted within one year of discharge and six percent for those reconvicted within two years—the same low rate as individuals discharged before the policy took effect, the authors write.

Other highlights include:

  • Since 2012, more than 36,000 probationers and parolees in Missouri shortened their sentences by an average of 14 months.
  • The average caseload for probation and parole officers fell from 70 supervisees in 2012 to 59 in 2015.

“Earned compliance credits are one of a variety of policies that states are adopting to improve the performance of their sentencing and corrections systems.” the authors concluded. “This evaluation demonstrates that such rewards can be a valuable tool to manage correctional populations.”

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