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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Incentive program gives prisoners second chance

Some defendants sentenced to imprisonment in the state corrections system now have an opportunity to be paroled early.

Offenders who are eligible for a Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive program can be released prior to their minimum sentence provided they complete required treatment programs while incarcerated, said Armstrong County President Judge Kenneth Valasek.

A state law passed in November permits the early release for nonviolent offenders sentenced to the state system.

In passing the law, the state legislature is "trying to provide an incentive to state prisoners to successfully complete all the required treatment programs as quickly as possible while they're in prison," Valasek said.

Depending on the length of the minimum sentence, defendants in the incentive program will be eligible for parole at different times.

A defendant whose minimum sentence is three years or less can be paroled in three-fourths of that time, as long as the incentive program requirements have been met, Valasek said. For example, a defendant sentenced to a minimum of 24 months would be eligible for release after 18 months.

Defendants with a minimum sentence of more than three years can be paroled in five-sixths of that time, provided the incentive program requirements are met, Valasek said. For example, a defendant sentenced to a minimum of 48 months will be eligible after 40 months.

There are many eligibility requirements for the incentive program. Defendants being sentenced for the following offenses, among others, would not be eligible for the program: homicide, assault, kidnapping, sex crimes, arson, robbery, homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, certain drug trafficking offenses and any other crime that results in personal injury. [Mark Godsey]

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