How To Do Criminal Justice Reform Right: Focus On “Earned Time”

When it comes to making Michigan a top-10 state and economy, we can’t overlook criminal justice reform. The simple fact is that 32,186 Michigan residents are behind bars. The vast majority will be released. They deserve a chance to achieve success instead of returning to a life of crime.

But not all criminal justice reform is created equal. There are two approaches to helping people rejoin society and lead productive lives. The first is “earned time,” and it’s proven to work. The second is “good time,” and it’s not nearly as effective. Here’s the difference:

  • Earned time is when someone behind bars devotes themselves to improving their life. They can pursue training, education, and programs that give them credit and on-the-job experience. Earned time sets up people for a lifetime of success once they’ve paid their debt to society.
  • Good time is when someone is released from prison early for following the rules, which is also known as “good behavior.” While staying on the straight and narrow is praiseworthy, good time doesn’t compare to earned time. It doesn’t do enough to put people on an upward path.

There are many examples of “earned time” initiatives in West Michigan. Look no further than Calvin University’s Calvin Prison Initiative, which provides a liberal-arts education to people at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility. They ultimately leave prison with a Bachelor of Arts degree, enabling them to find jobs and thrive once their sentence ends.

We need more “earned time” initiatives to help grow Michigan’s economy and empower our fellow residents. Please contact your state legislator and tell them: Focus on criminal justice reforms that give people “earned time” and a better shot at a better life.