Governors' Q & A: Rethinking Prison Time

With corrections costs rising and tax revenues falling, governors in a handful of states — including Kentucky, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin — recently have sought to save millions of dollars by shortening the time some prisoners spend behind bars.

The governors' proposals — ranging from early release for some inmates deemed “low-risk”and expanded earned-time credits for those who demonstrate good behavior — in some cases have met with sharp opposition. Critics say releasing prisoners early, even if they are considered “nonviolent,” could threaten public safety and is an unacceptable way for states to save money.

Stateline.org caught up with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) at the National Governors Association meeting Feb. 21 in Washington, D.C., to ask them about their plans for reducing inmates' time — and about the political risks accompanying their proposals.

Beshear's plan, which went into effect last year, allows some inmates who return to prison from parole to be credited with the time they served on parole, effectively shortening their sentences.

The Virginia General Assembly Feb 28 rejected Kaine's proposal to allow corrections officials to use their discretion to free some inmates up to 90 days early. Current law allows releases 30 days early.

Read the full Q&A Rethinking Prison Time on Stateline.org.

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