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December 10, 2011

"Solving the Good Time Puzzle: Why Following the Rules Should Get You Out of Prison Early"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new piece by Professor Michael O'Hear, which is available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Good-time programs have long been an important part of the American penal landscape. At least twenty-nine states and the federal government currently offer prison inmates early release, sometimes by many years, in return for good behavior.

Written a generation ago, the leading scholarly article on the subject presented a strong case against good time, which has yet to be effectively addressed.  Although good time is traditionally justified by reference to its usefulness in deterring inmate misconduct — credits can be denied or withdrawn as a penalty for violations of prison rules — the article questioned how it could possibly be just to impose additional incarceration based on mere violations of administrative regulations.

In response to this important challenge, the present Essay proposes a new way to conceptualize good-time credits, specifically, as a way to recognize atonement. Drawing on increasingly influential communicative theories of punishment, the Essay argues that good time can be seen as congruent with (and not, as is commonly supposed, in opposition to) the basic purposes of sentencing.  The Essay then proposes reforms that would help good-time programs more fully to embody the atonement ideal.

December 10, 2011 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

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Comments

"the article questioned how it could possibly be just to impose additional incarceration based on mere violations
of administrative regulations"

Again, this is treating the minimum term as some sort of right due the offender when the truth is far closer to the opposite. Anything less than the statutory maximum for any offense is a grace, or a decision by the state the the particular offender just isn't worth it or any number of other things.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Dec 10, 2011 3:04:43 PM

actually your WRONG once the individual has been LEGALLY sentenced only time UNDER that MAXIMUM sentence is a grace. ANYTHING above it absent a NEW CHARGE and CONVICTIONI is criminal!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 10, 2011 7:35:27 PM

here is a situation developing in NC, where defendants have a minimum sentence and a maximum sentence. In theory, when the def is sentenced, his release date is calculated according to the maximum sentence, but the def can work his way down to the minimum, but not below, for working, not getting infractions, completing classes, etc.

In practice, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers negotiate pleas and enter sentences as though the minimum is the sentence the def will serve. Actually, the first page on the sentencing chart is minimum sentences and the second sentence is the maximum on the second chart.

However, due to budget shortfalls, classes are being cancelled and work opportunities are disappearing, to the extent that for a lot of prisoners it is impossible to get down to the minimum sentence. prisoners are beginning to claim that the state has reneged on the bargain and the def should be entitled be released at the minimum or to withdraw the guilty plea if he chooses.

Tough issue. I have long maintained that the sentencing grid is backwards. The maximum sentence should be the first number and the minimum sentence should be the second. In other words, instead of a judge telling someone they have a sentence of six to eight months, it should be that they have an eight month sentence with the possibility of release after six.

bruce

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Dec 10, 2011 9:25:34 PM

Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet.

Posted by: north face sale | Dec 11, 2011 8:10:22 AM

bruce --

I don't see how any sensible claim can be made against your argument. In addition, thanks for pointing out one of the myriad ways in which cutbacks in money for prisons are going to hurt, not help, the inmates.

Nothing about this is cheap. Punishment isn't cheap and helping people (who want the help) on the road back isn't either. Legislators need to learn this.

P.S. Are you hearing anything about whether Perdue signs or vetoes the revision/repeal of the RJA now on her desk? I'm betting on a veto, but the political terrain in Carolina right now is too tricky for me to be sure.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 11, 2011 10:20:06 AM

yep if your right in how the sentneces are setup then the court is the one messing up. Once it is dumb enough to announce ON THE RECORD that mr x "you have been sentenced to 8 months" that's IT! If they needed to be saying mr x "you have been sentenced to a minimum of 8 months and no more than 5 YEARS" then the idiots need to be doing it. Since they have not! the state is STUCK with the verbal contract the judge has idioticaly created!

that kind of stupidity is why florida DOESN'T do those type of sentences. What you get is WHAT you get minus a possible 15% break. No matter what you do you can earn all the gain time in the universe...but NOTHING above that 15% counts!

Posted by: rodsmith | Dec 11, 2011 7:44:50 PM

bill, no inkling of what Governor Perdue will do on the Racial Justice Act veto. bruce

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Dec 11, 2011 11:08:31 PM

r x "you have been sentenced to a minimum of 8 months and no more than 5 YEARS" then the idiots need to be doing it. Since they have not! the state is STUCK with the verbal contract th

Posted by: ed hardy uk | May 30, 2012 6:01:53 AM

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