A revival of the 50-percent-off provision for well-behaved inmates in the Washington State prison system is likely in January as the state's budget situation grows increasingly dire, reports the Kitsap (WA) Sun. Rep. Sherry Appleton said she has “no doubt” that lawmakers will discuss the provision, which allows inmates serving time for non-violent offenses half off their sentence for good behavior. A law providing 50 percent off was enacted in 2003 but expired on July 1. The vast majority of inmates in prison receive earned release time, currently up to a third off.
Awarding time off for good behavior can be seen as a benefit to the taxpayer. Inmates who get out early for good behavior don't take up costly prison space, said law Prof. Mary Fan of the University of Washington. What began as a tool to keep inmates behaving has become a mechanism to relieve budgets in a time when the state is perennially strapped for cash. Fan agreed that lawmakers who wish to appear tough on crime can, say, bolster sentences for a variety of offenses, while more discreetly saving money by expanding good time. “If, on the back end, you quietly open the door wider, it's less controversial,” Fan said. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge believes good time can control behavior and provide incentives for inmates to stay in line while behind bars. 50 percent off is too much, he said. State prisons currently hold more than 16,000 people. Each inmate costs $100 per day, making prisons a target for cuts.