Title

Good Conduct Time for Prisoners: Why (and How) Wisconsin Should Provide Credits Toward Early Release

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Publication Information

Michael O'Hear, Good Conduct Time for Prisoners: Why (and How) Wisconsin Should Provide Credits Toward Early Release, 98 Marq. L. Rev. 487 (2014)

Source Publication

98 Marquette Law Review 487 (2014)

Abstract

Wisconsin is one of about twenty states not offering good conduct time (GCT) to prisoners. In most states, prisoners are able to earn GCT credits toward accelerated release through good behavior. Wisconsin itself had GCT for more than a century, but eliminated it as part of a set of reforms in the 1980s and 1990s that left the state with what may be the nation’s most inflexible system for the release of prisoners. Although some of these reforms helpfully brought greater certainty to punishment, they went too far in eliminating nearly all meaningful recognition and encouragement of good behavior and rehabilitative progress. This Essay explains why and how Wisconsin should reinstitute GCT, drawing on social scientific research on the effects of GCT, public opinion surveys in Wisconsin and across the United States regarding sentencing policy, and an analysis of the GCT laws in place in other jurisdictions. Although the Essay focuses particularly on Wisconsin’s circumstances, the basic argument for GCT is more generally applicable, and much of the analysis should be of interest to policymakers in other states, too.