DENVER, CO – Governor Polis today signed bipartisan legislation into law sponsored by Representative Matthew Martinez to allow Coloradans who are incarcerated to earn time off their sentence by pursuing higher education.
“With this law, we’re preparing Coloradans who are incarcerated for success by giving them the education and skills they need to thrive after they’re released,” said Rep. Matthew Martinez, D-Monte Vista. “Education is the number one way to reduce recidivism because it creates strong pathways for people who are incarcerated to earn a degree or certificate, secure a good-paying job after they’ve served their time and support their families. I’m beyond proud of the bipartisan work and support that’s gone into this important legislation.”
HB23-1037, sponsored by Representatives Matt Martinez and Rose Pugliese, R-Colorado Springs, will allow people who are incarcerated and sentenced for a nonviolent felony offense to reduce their sentence by completing an accredited degree or other credential awarded by an accredited higher education institution while the person is incarcerated in the Department of Corrections (DOC).
Specifically, people who are incarcerated can receive 6 months of earned time for an earned credential or a 30 credit hour certificate, one year of earned time for a bachelor's or associate's degree, 18 months of earned time for a master’s degree, and two years for a doctoral degree.
Currently, people who are incarcerated in the DOC can reduce their sentence through earned time by participating in group living, counseling sessions and through specific work and training. Generally, individuals cannot reduce their sentence by more than 30 percent. This law will add higher education achievements to the list of ways students can reduce their sentence through earned time. HB23-1037 aims to encourage people who are incarcerated in Colorado to pursue higher education and better prepare them for a high-earning career post-sentence.
Access to education opportunities while in prison is one of the most efficient and cost-effective tools to reduce recidivism. Colorado’s recidivism rate is 50 percent, one of the highest in the nation. A comprehensive, nationwide study showed that the recidivism rate among people who are incarcerated that earn associate's degrees is around 14 percent and just 5.6 percent for those who earn bachelor's degrees. These recidivism rates are significantly lower than people who were incarcerated that receive no education while in prison.