Current law requires that a person serving prison time must serve at least 85% of their sentence, meaning that good behavior and gain time will only decrease the length of their sentence slightly. A recent Senate bill proposed by Senator Keith Perry would allow an incarcerated individual to only serve 65% of their sentence through “rehabilitative gain time.” To accompany this new type of gain time, the bill would also officially change the goal of the Criminal Punishment code from incarceration to rehabilitation.
A similar bill was introduced in the House as well: HB 235. This bill also proposes changing the minimum time served to 65% and introduces the concept of rehabilitative credits.
Gain time is generally used to incentivize good behavior and participation in certain programs and activities, and this bill would encourage prisoners to participate in programs specifically aimed at rehabilitation. This category appears to be relatively broad, encompassing GED classes, life skills, behavioral modification, mental health treatment, drug treatment, reentry training, and vocational training. Essentially any other “evidence-based program approved by the department that serves the purpose of reducing recidivism and assisting a prisoner reintegrate into society” would earn rehabilitative credit.
These rehabilitative credits will not be available to all offenders, although we will have to wait until the bill is fully debated and passed to determine which crimes will be included and excluded.
As of March 11, 2021, SB 1032 passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and was placed in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. Little action has been taken on companion-bill HB 235; it was referred to several subcommittee, but as of yet, it has not been passed by any of them.
Sadly, the bill died in Appropriations on April 30. Hopefully the issue will be raised again during next year’s legislative sessions; it is a change that criminal-justice reform advocates say is a long time coming.