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Sentencing credit laws provide opportunities for inmates to gain a reduction in their prison sentence, and such laws have at least four intended goals: 1) reducing prison populations; 2) promoting prosocial behavior during imprisonment by offering inmates incentive for good behavior and/or deterring them from engaging in antisocial behavior; 3) reducing recidivism by providing offenders incentive for good behavior and participation in rehabilitative programming; and, 4) lowering correctional costs (Lawrence & Lyons, 2011; Weisburd & Chayet, 1989). The state of Nebraska currently has a sentencing credit law that automatically awards good time credits to inmates. The study described in this report involved an examination of the administration and effects of the state of Nebraska’s good time law. The specific research questions that were addressed included: 1. What are the relative effects of incident characteristics (e.g., type of violation) and inmate characteristics (e.g., age) on prison officials’ decisions to remove good time credits? 2. What is the effect of losing good time credits on inmates’ subsequent misconduct? 3. What is the effect of losing good time credits on inmates’ odds of recidivism? Methods The data used for the study were based on official records that were provided by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS). Research questions 1 and 2 were addressed using data from sub-samples of all of the inmates admitted to a NDCS prison in fiscal year 2009. Research question 3 was addressed using data from a sub-sample of all of the inmates released from a NDCS prison during fiscal year 2011. The data pertaining to research question 1 were analyzed using hierarchical Bernoulli regression, whereas the data used for research questions 2 and 3 were analyzed by first creating matched samples of inmates who lost good iii time and inmates who did not lose good time, and then, comparing the respective rates of misconduct (research question 2) and recidivism (research question 3) for the two groups. Results Approximately 74% of the inmates admitted to prison in 2009 were convicted of at least one rule infraction during their term of imprisonment (median = 4). Good time credits were removed in response to 6% of the rule violations committed by these inmates. However, 19% of inmates who were convicted of a rule violation lost good time in response to a violation; 42% of those inmates lost good time in response to more than one violation. Factors Related to Prison Officials’ Decisions to Remove Good Time Credits. The analyses pertaining to research question 1 revealed that prison officials were more likely to consider characteristics of the rule violation incidents that inmates were convicted of rather than the characteristics of the inmates when making their decisions to remove good time. The strongest predictors of prison officials’ decisions to remove good time credits included legally relevant criteria reflecting the type (i.e., violent, tattoo) and seriousness (i.e., Class I) of the rule violation, along with the inmate’s prior violation history. Effects of Losing Good Time Credits on Subsequent Misconduct. The analyses related to research question 2 uncovered that losing good time had no effect on whether inmates committed subsequent misconduct in general, but inmates who lost good time were more likely to perpetrate additional violent misconduct. Effects of Losing Good Time Credits on Recidivism. The analyses related to research question 3 revealed that losing good time credits amplified offenders’ odds of recidivism, particularly among offenders who lost good time, but had some or all of their good time restored.


This project was supported by the Nebraska Center for Justice Research, a research unit of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Nebraska, Omaha. The authors wish to thank Dr. Abby Vandenberg and Robert Lytle with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services for their assistance with the collection of the data for this study.



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