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The Real Story on “Good Behavior” and Prison Sentences

by Aug 24, 2011Jail / Prison, Sam Edmunds

Between the television news, newspapers, and movies, you’ve certainly heard it: “The prisoner got out early on good behavior.” But what exactly does this mean? And who is eligible?

“Good behavior” is the colloquial term for what the corrections system officially calls the “good conduct allowance,” or “diminution of sentence.”

Good conduct allowance policies vary by state. Here’s how it works in Minnesota, according to MN statute 643.29: any prisoner serving a sentence of at least ten days is eligible for a potential good conduct allowance. For every two days of the sentence during which the prisoner follows all the rules and does what is asked of him or her, that prisoner is eligible to receive a one-day sentence reduction.

This means that a model prisoner could theoretically reduce his or her sentence by 33%. But there’s a catch: any corrections officer — or individual within a position of authority within the corrections system — can revoke or reinstate “banked” good conduct time at any point.

Good conduct allowances serve several purposes: they provide incentives for good behavior in prison, they help to reduce prison crowding, and they can help the system identify prisoners who are least likely to reoffend after release.

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