PAWTUCKET, R.I. — If the state weren't so pressed for cash, Joshua Gomes might still be behind bars. Instead, he's working temp jobs — at a construction site one week, a recycling plant another — and talks about going to college, teaching or joining the military.
The former cocaine addict and dealer had to prepare for his future sooner than expected: He was released from prison in June after serving a little more than half his two-year sentence, benefiting from a state law that allows certain prisoners to get out early if they commit to rehabilitation programs behind bars.
States under pressure to erase budget deficits and ease prison overcrowding are allowing inmates to shave greater amounts of time off their sentences through good behavior and participation in classes such as job training and substance abuse treatment.
Some victims' advocates and law enforcement professionals worry convicts released early will continue committing crimes, and they question whether rehabilitative programs offered behind bars can produce lasting improvements. But supporters say the law changes not only cut costs but also can motivate inmates — the overwhelming majority of whom eventually will be released — to acquire life skills to keep them from committing new crimes.
"I would rather have an inmate released three weeks earlier, knowing that he had dealt with his substance abuse addictions, than waiting the three weeks and releasing him untreated," Rhode Island corrections director A.T. Wall said.
Among new laws passed this year: Colorado now permits low-risk inmates 12 days per month of earned time instead of 10; Mississippi lifted a 180-day cap on earned time; and Oregon raised the amount of time inmates can deduct from their sentences for good behavior from 20 percent to 30 percent.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Saturday, October 17, 2009