The Call for More States to Use Their "Good Time" Policies to Release People From Prison During the COVID-19 Epidemic
Date:  01-15-2021

People in prisons earn credits by participating in educational, vocational and other programs, as well as complying with prison rules
From Prison Policy Initiative:

With the COVID-19 infection rate in prisons four times that of the general U.S. population, public health and medical experts are urging prisons to reduce their populations to save lives. But governors and corrections officials are still passing the buck — almost a year into the pandemic. Overlooking existing mechanisms that could be used to release people, states have instead imposed a number of policy changes that have caused further harm to the incarcerated people they are supposed to protect:

  • Correctional agencies have suspended programs, classes, and other valuable resources for incarcerated people. Not only does suspending programming make life in prison more difficult; it also slows down upcoming releases: People who have been approved for parole are still waiting behind bars to complete programs required for their release.

  • the use of solitary confinement has increased 500% during the pandemic.

  • Visitation has been limited or completely suspended in all 50 states and the federal prison system, and only some states have provided free video and phone calls while visitation is suspended.

  • Prison systems have delayed thousands of releases scheduled for 2020, scrambling to balance the need for fewer people behind bars with the need to connect people to community health resources if they have been exposed to COVID-19 prior to release.

  • Transfers have slowed, and in some places, completely halted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between facilities. As a result, people have been stuck in limbo at transitional facilities that are not designed to house people for months at a time, or imprisoned in higher security facilities than are necessary.

  • Corrections staff are reprimanding incarcerated people for inadequate social distancing, even though maintaining physical distance from others is impossible in prison.

    What states need now is a simple, equitable way of getting lots of people out of prison safely, rather than continuing to incarcerate them in ever more dangerous and cruel conditions. A solution — albeit one that will require legislative action in most states — is for states to immediately change their “good time” policies. Continue reading >>>