As Connecticut and other states grapple with tight budgets, many have made attempts to lower recidivism, or the rate at which released prisoners are reincarcerated for new crimes. A national study found that more than 40 percent of people released from prison end up back behind bars.
However, a new law in Connecticut may help to rehabilitate inmates and prevent or reduce recidivism. The state’s new “risk reduction” credit program allows inmates in Connecticut to earn credits toward an earlier release from prison.
Under the new law, inmates in the program can earn up to five days per month — which adds up to 60 days per year — off their sentence by complying with prison regulations and participating in rehabilitation and/or educational programs.
These programs are designed to assist in an inmate’s eventual re-entry into society. By providing an inmate with substance abuse counseling, mental health treatment, parenting classes or a GED or skills in a particular trade, these programs give an offender tools to enable him or herself to better re-enter the community. In addition to addressing one of the purported goals of the criminal justice system—rehabilitation—, the law is in the interests of society. The incentive of a decreased sentence motivates inmates to participate in programs that lower their risk of re-offending. This gives the offender tools to enable a more successful transition into and participation in society. Secondary to this goal, but not lost on the legislature, is that decreasing the inmate population saves the state money.
Despite these benefits, the bill met controversy in the legislature, facing opposition from lawmakers who thought such a policy was “soft on crime.” Before the bill’s final passage, certain restrictions were imposed regarding early release credits. Defendants convicted of violent crimes that are ineligible for parole are disqualified from the program. Ineligible offenses include:
- Capital felony
- Felony murder
- Arson murder
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Home invasion
These credits do not apply to mandatory minimum sentences; However, inmates sentenced to periods of incarceration longer than the mandatory minimum may still reduce their sentences.
Further, the credit system is run and monitored by the commissioner of correction and a corrections committee. Such monitoring allows those in the best position to assess an inmate’s behavior to give incentives—by way of credits—when warranted.
If you have been accused of a crime, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to help. Contact an attorney to discuss your case.