Rethinking early release laws E-mail
Written by Lance M. Burris   

It’s just another word for “rewarding bad behavior” says Scott Suder, a Wisconsin assemblyman about early release of prison inmates.  “There is no risk free release program,” echoes Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. So what are they talking about?  

It’s all about prison time based on the earning of good time by incarcerated individuals.

A prisoner who after they commit a crime and a sentence is imposed by a judge, becomes this so-called model prisoner and earns the right to shave off years from the very sentence awarded by the courts.  

For being the kind of person you could not be while out of prison i.e. having no infractions in prison while in residence there, by simply being on your best behavior, not violating any prison rules, enrolled in jail and community service programs, rehabilitation programs and applying for prison jobs, you are rewarded with time off your sentence you were given by the trial court.  

Then all you have to do is to pull the wool over the eyes of the Parole Board that you have been such a good prisoner by participating in various programs and prison jobs that they will see you as a person who can re-enter society and become a productive member.

Ronda Larson, an Assistant State Attorney General, in the State of Washington believes that while early outs help to maintain discipline and control the behavior of inmates, it is not the real key to rehabilitation.  What is troubling is the basic premise of rehabilitation is it says to go ahead and commit the crime and then we will try to change you.

The United States Department of Justice tracked the re-arrest, re-conviction and re-incarceration of prior inmates in a three-year study of fifteen states after they were released from prison.  According to that national study, within three years almost seven of ten released prisoners were re-arrested with over half of them ending up back in prison. 

It is important to note that of the highest re-arrest rates were robbers (70.2%), burglars (74.0%) vehicle thieves (78.8%), possession or selling of stolen property (77.4%), and possessing, using or selling illegal weapons (70.2%).

Within the three year period 2.5% of released rapists were arrested for another rape or other sex crimes.

As the Chicago Tribune Newspaper might say: “Here’s one for the books.” In Indiana two sex offenders were released from prison after some of their prison terms were reduced by two years for obtaining a college degree while incarcerated. One walked out the gates after serving less than two years of a 15-year sentence.

The other served two and a half years of his ten-year sentence.

The latest word is that situations like this are prompting Indiana lawmakers to make changes to the state’s early release law.  

Lt. Lance M. Burris is a retired Chief of Detectives and current a Master Instructor with the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.


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