Allowing prisoners to earn credits that reduce the length of their sentences could help Connecticut's money problems, reduce prison overcrowding, and improve prison conditions, an ACLU staff lawyer has told a General Assembly committee.

David McGuire told members of the Judiciary Committee that the ACLU of Connecticut supports Raised Bill 6391, introduced by Gov. Dannel Malloy, which will allow prisoners to reduce their sentences by participating in programs that provide education, vocational training and rehabilitation. The bill would restore elements of a program that was eliminated in Connecticut in 1994.

One result of the abolition of "good time" credits, McGuire said, is that prisons have become overcrowded, which has occasionally posed a threat to prison safety. Incarceration is more expensive and often less effective than alternative programs, and sentencing some non-violent offenders to home confinement will save money as well as reduce prison overcrowding. Housing fewer prisoners would save the state needed money at a time of budgetary restraints.

At least 31 other states provide earned time or good time benefits to offenders. A national survey of the outcomes of accelerated release in 13 states found "no significant increase in rates of recidivism for those offenders who reduced their length of incarceration." A few studies found a decrease in recidivism rates.

The current lack of discharge options and the inability to reduce the length of prison sentences through earned credits or good time credits have contributed to costly prison overcrowding without increasing public safety, he argued. The proposed bill provides opportunities for offenders to develop skills to succeed in society and a means to earn credits towards earlier release, thereby reducing recidivism rates. In addition, many non-violent offenders do not belong in prison with violent offenders, and rehabilitation would be more suitably addressed in alternative programs.

Earned time programs help reduce crime by better preparing offenders for reentry into society, McGuire testified: The bill will promote offender rehabilitation by fostering good behavior, better decision making, and participation in programs. Being able to offer good time credits based on an offender's actions gives corrections officers an effective management tool, he argued, and helps make the prison environment safer for other offenders and correction officers.

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