Colorado Gives Inmates “Earned Time” Even When They Break the Rules


Colorado’s prison system aggressively pushes inmates out of prison early by awarding them “earned time” for rehabilitation programs they never complete and by failing to deduct such time in many cases when inmates later break the rules, says the Denver Post. Such generous policies have helped allow the state to empty cells and save millions of dollars but have put Colorado in marked contrast to rules applied in many other states and the federal prison system.

The practice of awarding earned time to inmates on a monthly basis — rather than on a yearly basis as state law dictates — locks officials into a system tilted toward giving prisoners time off, rather than holding them accountable with the threat of losing that time. Evan Ebel, the parolee suspected of killing pizza-delivery driver Nathan Leon and corrections director Tom Clements, reaped the benefits by racking up 115 days of earned time off of his sentence, despite being cited 28 times over eight years for fighting, smearing feces on cell doors, inciting prison disruptions, and threatening to kill correctional officers. Last April alone, the state awarded 2,399 days to inmates in administrative segregation, considered among the most dangerous offenders in the prison system.

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