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August 31, 2013

"Clemency, Parole, Good-Time Credits, and Crowded Prisons: Reconsidering Early Release"

The title of this post is the title of this paper recently posted to SSRN and authored by Paul Larkin Jr.  Here is the abstract:

For most of our history, clemency, parole, and good-time credits have offered prisoners an opportunity for early release.  Over the last 40 years, however, clemency has fallen into disuse, and many jurisdictions have repealed their parole laws in favor of determinate sentencing.  Given our increasingly crowded prisons and expanding correctional budgets, governments are beginning to rethink our approach to punishment.  It is unlikely that clemency or parole will come back into fashion any time soon, however, or that severe sentencing laws will quickly disappear.

But the federal and state governments have continued to use good-time credits as a means of rewarding inmates for positive, in-prison behavior, and legislators may believe that expanding the current good-time laws is the best solution. That approach is reasonable as a policy matter and sellable as a political matter because prisoners must earn good time credits. We therefore may see legislators seek to address prison overcrowding through an expanded good-time system.

August 31, 2013 at 09:19 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Clemency is an ideological device for undoing ideological mistakes. Good-time is unworkable unless it is limited to the accountability aspect of a sentence. Why should dangerous people be released because they have earned god time?

These deficiencies go away if you shift to a reasoned correction paradigm where a plan is made with regard to each offender and the components of that plan are then matched with components of a correction program.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Aug 31, 2013 10:32:35 PM

Tom-
You're assuming that everyone in prison is guilty or dangerous. Wrong assumption.
And those in prison deserve an increase in Good Time Days, to stay out of trouble, to just stay alive in prison, is much harder than you may think, even for the most passive of inmates. I say, if they can stay alive and out of prison chaos, let them leave early.

Posted by: kat | Sep 1, 2013 10:47:34 AM

kat,

Your view of prison is a ridiculous caricature.

Stop watching "Oz" and "Prison Break."

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 1, 2013 12:59:37 PM

Kat, I agree that there is a place for good time credits, but only if you draw a distinction between holding offenders accountable and controlling their risk of reoffending--a tandem sentencing system. The reasons for holding offenders accountable do not change once established. But risk does change, often for the better or worse. Good time credits do make sense as to the accountability aspect of a sentence, but not risk.

The same can be said for plea bargaining. At the time plea bargaining takes place the problem is not fully knowable. Who can say at that point in time what will happen to the offender's risk, say five years in the future. Plea bargaining should be limited to the accountability aspect of a sentence.

The highest level of restraint that is needed to accomplish both objectives should control at any given point in time. Of course this would call for a fundamental change in our approach to sentencing, one that is reasoned, not simply ideological as at present.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Sep 1, 2013 1:58:21 PM

TarlsQtr1, have you ever been to state prison? Kat is correct. Many state prisons are hell holes--filled with gangs. I was at three. In two of them, you were either a predator or a punk. Tell me Tarls, have you ever been forcibly anally sodomized? Not so nice, do you think? Whether predator or punk, you watch your back. In short, Tarls, you have no idea what you're talking about.

Posted by: recent former prisoner | Sep 1, 2013 4:19:36 PM

RFP,

Your statement that you are either a "predator or a punk" is the typical caricature presented by former inmates who like to elicit sympathy and their soft on crime enablers. Does it happen? Of course. However, your assertion that everyone is either raping or being raped (which one were you?) is a self-serving absurdity.

PS I was a civilian employee in the state prison system for more than 10 years in every imaginable security level and also worked on facility accreditation teams.

Posted by: Tarlsqtr1 | Sep 1, 2013 5:26:47 PM

Tarlsqtr1: Is it "soft on crime" or is it a sound corrections practice to incentivize prisoners to exhibit and maintain good behavior?

Posted by: ? | Sep 1, 2013 5:38:30 PM

RFP --

The best answer by far to inmate violence is for the inmates committing it to develop a conscience.

The government cannot do this for you. You have to do it for yourself or it isn't going to get done.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 1, 2013 6:03:42 PM

Tom-
Point taken.
Tarls- FYI, I don't watch OZ or Prison Break.
I do know first hand about the federal prisons, you always "watch your back" and no one in there is your "friend", just someone serving the same day to day hell as you. No one incinuated that rape in prison was a "daily" occurance, but prison is not "a safe place" either. And if you didn't see that there is a prison hierarchy, (punks and predators is a very good description in fact) where you worked, then you were working blind.

Posted by: kat | Sep 1, 2013 6:09:37 PM

? stated: "Tarlsqtr1: Is it "soft on crime" or is it a sound corrections practice to incentivize prisoners to exhibit and maintain good behavior?"

It can be either. If I thought that Kat, you, or RFP gave a rat's behind about inmate behavior, I would have phrased it differently. Unfortunately, I suspect y'all only care about letting very bad people on the streets regardless of their crime, prison behavior, and likelihood to offend again.

I am all FOR incentives for good behavior, although I do question their efficacy in actually getting better "behavior", especially after release. I support robust programs for inmates, which can be achieved with fewer employees and less money than we currently waste.

You do this by making all programs voluntary. You cannot force someone to be rehabilitated. Forcing inmates into programs is a waste. If an inmate wants to put in an honest effort into it, great. He gets a chance for all of the incentives, like parole, good time, etc. If not, stack him like cord wood with the other dead weight to sit out his entire sentence. He can sweep the floors, watch TV, and go to bed. Unfortunately, a majority will choose this option and keeping them out of programs will make more room for those who give themselves a chance.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 1, 2013 7:30:04 PM

Kat stated: "Tarls- FYI, I don't watch OZ or Prison Break."

Then stop presenting a caricature of prison life in line with those programs.

You stated: "I do know first hand about the federal prisons, you always "watch your back" and no one in there is your "friend",..."

First, how do you "know first hand?"

Second, bad people are in prison. Of course it is not a picnic for many.

You stated: " ...just someone serving the same day to day hell as you."

There you go overstating things again. It is "hell" to some, pretty darn good for others. Some get 3 hots and a cot, healthcare, dentistry, and a gym "membership" for the first times in their wretched lives.

You stated: "No one incinuated that rape in prison was a "daily" occurance, but prison is not "a safe place" either."

Interesting that you "quote" me but I never said any such thing.

I would also correct you and say that for your average inner city street thug, prison is far safer than the streets. You are far LESS likely to get killed in Menard Correctional Facility than on the streets of Chicago's ghettos.

You stated: "And if you didn't see that there is a prison hierarchy, (punks and predators is a very good description in fact) where you worked, then you were working blind."

Of course, again, I never actually SAID there was no prison hierarchy. And AGAIN you completely overstate the situation to the point of being a caricature. Yes, there ARE punks. Yes, there ARE predators. However, an overwhelming majority walk a line somewhere in between.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 1, 2013 7:50:43 PM

Bill stated: "The best answer by far to inmate violence is for the inmates committing it to develop a conscience.

The government cannot do this for you. You have to do it for yourself or it isn't going to get done.'

Bingo.

This is why I abhor mandatory programming. Someone forced into school, vocational training, sex offender treatment, drug/alcohol rehab, etc. is not going to get anything out of it. They do the bare minimum to get by (if that) and waste time and space for the few who actually care about changing their lives.

The main problem with the pablum-puking liberal approach to corrections is that they expect the system to wrestle the inmates into becoming good people. When the inmates fight every step of the way, they have the gall to blame the prisons.

The correct approach is to do everything you can to help those who want it and warehouse the rest for as long as you can.

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 1, 2013 7:59:08 PM

Tarlqtr1: You are right, mandatory programming is not a panacea. The inmate needs to want to change. So lets reward those who to change with good time. Let us also remove barriers to successful reintegration. I disagree with warehousing the rest until expiration of sentence. Instead, I would advocate putting those who are close to release into some sort of transitional control to at least try to eliminate recidivism.

Posted by: ? | Sep 1, 2013 8:17:16 PM

Tarls, you were a "civilian employee" for 10 years. Ha, so you went home every night right to a warm bed, a good meal, and maybe some good family time. Ha! You have no idea of what happened when you left. What prison did you work at? A nice minimum security camp? Or were you a guard? Did you take bribes to smuggle in contraband? To look the other way when prisoners jumped another guy?

Bill Otis, you are one smug, self-righteous, guy. You and Tarls should be bunmates in the joins I was in. Who would be the predator and who the punk? Other guys should "develop a conscience? Give me a break. Let's see how you do when the 3 guys hold you down while the fourth rapes you from behind. Scream out "you guys should develop a conscience." My advice: keep teaching at your ivory tower fancy law school because you don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: recent former prisoner | Sep 1, 2013 8:42:00 PM

Some interesting statistics I came across:

In 2010, Human Rights Watch estimated that at least 140,000 inmates had been raped while incarcerated, and there is a significant variation in the rates of prison rape by race. "Past studies have documented the prevalence of black on white sexual aggression in prison," according to Human Rights Watch. "These findings are further confirmed by Human Rights Watch's own research. Overall, our correspondence and interviews with white, black, and Hispanic inmates convince us that white inmates are disproportionately targeted for abuse. Although many whites reported being raped by white inmates, black on white abuse appears to be more common. To a much lesser extent, non-Hispanic whites also reported being victimized by Hispanic inmates."

Just Detention International (formerly known as Stop Prisoner Rape, Inc.) estimate that young men are five times more likely to be attacked, and that the prison rape victims are ten times more likely to contract a deadly disease.

A United States Department of Justice report, Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, states that "In 2011-12, an estimated 4.0% of state and federal prison inmates and 3.2% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months." However, advocates dispute the accuracy of the numbers, saying they seem to under report the real numbers of sexual assaults in prison, especially among juveniles.

A meta-analysis published in 2004 found a prevalence rate of 1.91% with a 95% confidence interval between 1.37–2.46%.

In a survey of 1,788 male inmates in Midwestern prisons by Prison Journal, about 21% claimed they had been coerced or pressured into sexual activity during their incarceration, and 7% claimed that they had been raped in their current facility.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Sep 1, 2013 8:46:45 PM

Tarls-
Not all people in prison are "bad", but "bad" things do happen to people in prison. Healthcare and dentistry are not "free" in the federal system, the inmate must pay for it and they don't all have a gym.
I did not say that you made a comment about "daily rape" I said "no one incinuated that rape occurred on a daily basis" nor did I say that you specifically made reference to there not being a heirarchy in prison. You may feel that what I say about the federal prison is a "ridiculous caricature", but I know it to be fact. Let's just leave it at,we both know what we know.

Posted by: kat | Sep 1, 2013 8:54:50 PM

Several of my federal clients over the years have reported being sexually assaulted, extorted, and blackmailed. The physically slight and those convicted of certain crime were particularly vulnerable, but I've had some very big clients get beaten o a pulp by other inmates for one thing or another. They've also been subject to extortion and blackmail. One or two have also had their relatives on the outside threatened. I don't think the purpose of punishment, regardless of the crime, is supposed to include exposure to the high risk of physical or sexual assault. But the reality is what it is.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Sep 1, 2013 9:03:03 PM

RFP --

"Bill Otis, you are one smug, self-righteous, guy."

Were you under the impression that I'm affected by the opinion of a criminal who's too yellow to give his name? Is that what you thought?

"You and Tarls should be bunmates in the joins I was in."

And why were you in? You're a bit fuzzy on that. Let me guess: The cops manufactured the evidence and your lawyer was drunk. Your behavior had zip to do with it.

Still, I would be pleased to entice Tarls and his family to come to my winter home next year to be bunkmates. You're right about that.

"Other guys should 'develop a conscience?'"

Correct. You might try it too, instead of blaming everyone else for your own choices.

"Give me a break."

Go earn your break.

"Let's see how you do when the 3 guys hold you down while the fourth rapes you from behind. Scream out "you guys should develop a conscience."

Of course if they had a conscience, it wouldn't be a problem to begin with, now would it?

"My advice: keep teaching at your ivory tower fancy law school because you don't know what you're talking about."

It's true that many academics suffer from ivory tower syndrome. This is why they have such cheerful, if feckless, opinions of people like you.

I must confess, however, that I don't have that much of an academic background. For most of my career, I was a federal prosecutor, helping to give people like you what their greed and dishonesty earned them.

P.S. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for your posts, and I hope you keep them up. They illustrate better than I ever could the kind of self-centered, belligerent, it's-everybody-else's mindset that is at the core of the inmate belief system.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 2, 2013 1:10:56 AM

Michael R. Levine --

Just two points.

First, I think you know that what I would do with prison rape is prosecute the rapists without remorse or relent. Prisoners are still human beings entitled to basic decency. If their fellow inmates won't give it to them, I would not stand idly by. If present prosecutors do, shame on them.

Second, I offer as Exhibit A the fellow signing himself as "recent former prisoner." He wonderfully illustrates why I chose prosecution over defense. It was my experience that people who wind up on the wrong end of an indictment are not mere losers, or those to whom life has dealt a poor hand. Of course there are some of those, but, in my career, the more typical way of thinking is that displayed by RFP. I just wasn't dealing with a lot of Jean Valjeans.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 2, 2013 1:24:14 AM

Some jokes are distasteful since they legitimize prison rape.

But, Bill Otis' comments underline that few -- when pressed -- are going to just look the other way. I appreciate that he reaffirms my sentiments, not always expressed by some people (clearly not him, given his comment), that inmates are "entitled to basic decency." This would involve rights, including right to protection of criminal law.

Michael Levine and others however express the reality of the situation -- as currently set up, prisons are dangerous places that enable drug use, rape, violence and other criminal behavior. They have for a long time have been said, including by those who stay there, as crime enhancements. Any efforts by prosecutors and others to address such things are proper and appreciated, but the reality of the situation is that only just so much is done.

I don't think this state of affairs is necessary though even if a lot more is done, only so much is possible in the real world. It does suggest that prison should only be used when totally necessary.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 2, 2013 12:15:29 PM

Prison rape is illegal, and the prisons have total control of the bodies of both rapist and victim. Thus, prisons are 100% liable, and the negligence is per se. The sole remaining question for a trial is the amount of compensation. Now, there are data of disparate impact by race, with whites suffering more at the hands of black inmates, and young people at the hands of older prisoners.

If anyone wants to really take down government, tort litigation is the path. A class action of asbestos proportion will bankrupt this government.

Exemplary damages also apply because of knowledge of the officials that rape has happened.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 2, 2013 11:46:30 PM

Those that can survive, especially the wonderful food and sitting in the tv areas, and follow the rules and try to get what programming they can. ( Mickey Mouse govt coarses intended to benefit oneself ). These people should get a lot more than than 54 days after a yr is served. Good time days for federal needs to be at 40 pct/yr. not 12.7 pct/yr

Posted by: MidWestguy | Sep 2, 2013 11:53:09 PM

RFP stated: "Tarls, you were a "civilian employee" for 10 years. Ha, so you went home every night right to a warm bed, a good meal, and maybe some good family time. Ha! You have no idea of what happened when you left."

Yes, I did. I was able to do so because I am not a criminal. However, the fact that I went home does not mean that I do not know what happens or could happen while I am gone.

You stated: "What prison did you work at? A nice minimum security camp? Or were you a guard?"

You obviously did not take advantage of the educational services while you were incarcerated. I already stated that I was a civilian employee (not a guard) and worked in every security classification at different times. This includes super max and with the severely mentally ill.

You stated: "Did you take bribes to smuggle in contraband? To look the other way when prisoners jumped another guy?

This is called "projection." You remind me of the inmates when I worked at a max/super max facility in NY's Amish/Mennonite country. The inmates were completely convinced that "all Amish were drug dealers," mainly because they could not understand how people could be so good while they were so morally bankrupt. It bothered that little fleck of conscience they had left, so they made up stories about the Amish.

PS You keep saying that one is either raping or being raped. I'll ask again. Which were you?

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 3, 2013 12:58:58 PM

Kat stated: "Not all people in prison are "bad", but "bad" things do happen to people in prison. Healthcare and dentistry are not "free" in the federal system, the inmate must pay for it and they don't all have a gym."

Paying a few bucks for co-pays is essentially "free." And virtually all inmates who have a security classification that enables them to do so have access to exercise equipment.

You stated: "I did not say that you made a comment about "daily rape" I said "no one incinuated that rape occurred on a daily basis" nor did I say that you specifically made reference to there not being a heirarchy in prison."

Then what was your point? You were implying, for example, that I thought there was "no hierarchy in prison." I said no such thing. You made it up.

You stated: "You may feel that what I say about the federal prison is a "ridiculous caricature", but I know it to be fact. Let's just leave it at,we both know what we know."

And how do you "know?"

Posted by: TarlsQtr1 | Sep 3, 2013 1:13:33 PM

Tom, I am with you. Not all prisoners are created equal. Each of is is an individual. And to start stereo typing that all prisoners are alike, is just ignorance at it's finest. Here are those prisoners that have done things against the law, due to intoxication,
(a recognizable disease) that have fell victim to the procecutor's games of twisting the truth, and making what is less serious, into a serious offence, as there is a pot of gold,
(Grants) at the end of a newly open prison cell. This 3 strikes law should be equal for all states. What about equality for all in the US? Our constitution is slowly morphing to protect, WE THE GOVERNMENT! We are one of few countries, where we the people are scared of our government, and not the other way around, like it should be. I say equal rights for all states, and not just CA. It is against our constitutional rights. As WE THE PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUAL, and should be treated equal! I say proposition 36 for all states in the US. This is outrageous! Make the US SUPREME COURTAKE PROPORSITION 36 equal across the board! All people in all 50 states!

Posted by: Teresa | Oct 18, 2013 5:52:55 AM

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