While the move was spurred in part by the state's budget crisis, it also makes tons of practical sense and is an approach which has been discussed on a bipartisan basis here in Texas. According to the Boston Globe:
The law, which went into effect Oct. 1, mandates that inmates be paroled nine months before their maximum sentences expire. The goal of the law is to require supervision and treatment during that nine-month period, rather than let inmates leave prison answering to no one. The first inmates being paroled under the new law are being released Monday.
As in New Hampshire, offenders here who serve their full sentences leave prison without any community supervision or transitional support during their first months of freedom, which everyone acknowledges is when the risk of recidivism is the highest. The tough on crime crowd is crowing about "early release," but from a strictly public safety perspective, in most cases it will make New Hampshire safer: Again from the Globe:New Hampshire's law is not pioneering new ground. More than half of the states require community supervision for those convicted of some offenses and even more require post-release supervision for sex offenders, according to a survey by the Association of Paroling Authorities International.
Sandra Matheson, director of the Attorney General's Office of Victim and Witness Assistance, said the law not an early release policy -- it's a mandatory supervision policy.
Keep in mind, these folks are getting out anyway in 9 months; this statute merely ensures they don't immediately disappear off law enforcement's radar screen when they walk out the prison door. Most NH offenders are paroled well before they serve their complete sentence, reports the Globe, meaning they're monitored by parole officers when they get out. But for those who would otherwise serve their full time day for day, upon completing their sentence they go from total confinement to unfettered freedom literally overnight - a transition fraught with difficulty for the offender and risk for the public. Notably, the months immediately after release are when ex-inmates are most likely to re-offend; after a while the risk declines dramatically."The alternative is they walk out the door and we have no idea where they are or what they're doing," she said. "Studies show that nine-month period is when half of recidivism occurs."
In the federal system, offenders are often sentenced to incarceration plus a period of community supervision after they get out. But in Texas, if the parole board forces an inmate to stay their full term, when they leave there is no supervision at all, which is what happens with more than half of offenders released each year. More than that, even the minimal support services available to parolees will be unavailable to those released after serving their sentence day for day, making recidivism much more likely. It's a crack in the system that almost certainly increases crime among long-time offenders returning to the community.
In addition to the safety benefits of such a policy are the economics: The state saves money at the margins from incarcerating them 9 months less because parole costs (even including reentry services) are much cheaper than locking someone up for the same period. As states look for budget cuts next spring, this is a way they could save money while enhancing rather than reducing public safety.
It'll be interesting to see how the public reacts to the politicized debate in New Hampshire. To me this seems like a good idea and it wouldn't be difficult to add safeguards - e.g., creating a presumption for parole that could be overruled by a bad disciplinary record, etc. - to address situations where inmates at the end of their sentences still pose an immediate danger. This type of reform could save big bucks without harming public safety, so I hope Texas legislators seriously consider some version of the idea when they meet next spring to grapple with the state's budget crisis.