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Colorado Bill Deducting Prison Time for Inmates Earning Academic Credentials Passes 61-1 in State House

A bill to incentivize Colorado prisoners to pursue higher education passed 61-1 in the state House of Representatives, Colorado Politics reported. The bill still needs approval from the state Senate and governor.Rep. Matthew MartinezRep. Matthew Martinez

HB 1037 – Reps. Matthew Martinez and Rose Pugliese, and Sen. Julie Gonzales are prime bill sponsors – would deduct time off of an inmate’s sentence for earning an academic credential while incarcerated – six months for earning a certificate, one year for an associate or bachelor’s degree, 18 months for a master's, and two years for a doctorate. And those released prior to degree completion could finish to cut time from parole.

"Getting them connected to education lowers recidivism and helps them get their lives back on track," said Martinez, who worked at the Adams State University Prison Education Program before taking office. "They become productive members of society and that's better for all of Colorado."

To note, the program would only apply to non-violent offenders.

“This is a program that will help decrease recidivism in non-violent offenders, which will make our communities safer," Pugliese said. "There is no additional cost to the people of Colorado. It is good public policy.” 

Colorado has one of the worst U.S. recidivism rates, with over 50% of inmates released ending up back behind bars within three years. But prisoners engaging in higher ed during incarceration are less likely to return to crime after release, with recidivism rates dropping to 13.7% for prisoners who earned associates degrees, 5.6% for those who earned bachelor’s degrees, and 0% for those who earned master’s degrees, according to a 2006 national analysis by Emory University.

This bill comes amid recent changes from the U.S. Department of Education making it so that inmates will soon be eligible to receive federal Pell Grants up to nearly $7,000 a year.


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